The Lifecycle of Everyday Objects Project (ME8813-TEL/ID8900-SSD)

May 15, 2017

This Spring 2017, the Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design course, Sustainable Systems Design, performed streamlined social and environmental assessments of everyday objects. They are streamlined, in that they provide back-of-the-envelope style assessments and did not include data directly from the producers. These are rough estimates and do not claim to be definitive. The three blog posts explore the potential social and environmental impacts of a water bottle, a stapler, and a stick of deodorant.

Post 1: Suave Deodorant Lifecycle & Social Hotspot Analysis, by Abigail Cohen and Fiona Wong

Post 2: Social and Environmental Impacts of a Stapler, by David Cyron and Veronica Spencer

Post 3: Life Cycle Impacts of a Water Bottle, by William Martin, Yanchao He, and Tianyi Lu

The students used OpenLCA, EcoInvent, Sustainable Minds, EIOLCA or some combination of these software and databases in conjunction with the Social Hotspots database. These tools collate years of data and research on the material and energy flows through unit processes in a supply chain, and human rights and labor concerns for various industry sectors in countries around the world. While the environmental analyses are quantitative, the ratings for the social hotspot are qualitative and represent average conditions. Decision makers can use this information of hotspots, industry sectors of concern, to manage and monitor social implications globally.  You can read more about social and environmental LCA in the SLS BIG IDEAS.

 This assignment helped students learn to:

(1) determine important...

      - ecological sustainability considerations of systems.

      - economic sustainability considerations of systems.

       -social sustainability considerations of systems.

(2) identify ecological, economic, and social issues along a supply chain

(3) characterize the flow of materials and energy within life cycle processes related to an artifact. Including:

       - Identify tools and resources for finding information about processes

      - Summarize data and information from these sources as flows and processes

We hope you enjoy these explorations of everyday objects. Please contact with any questions.

Disclaimer: The results in this study are estimated using assumptions and available data. They do not claim to be definitive measures of any particular producer’s impacts.