How about we get edumacated about our consumer culture…If the goal is to have the public and private sectors work towards reducing carbon emissions we need to hit people where it hurts, not their pocket book, that comes after the initial blow, but their reputation. Having taken a class at the University of Washington in LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), I saw the amount of impact a thorough assessment of a product or process can have on the reputation of a business. Here is a snippet of some of the processes that LCA looks at:
Extraction of raw materials, processing, manufacturing, transportation, use, disposal or recovery after useful life.
Instead of solely looking at the production or use of a material (which is often misleading), LCA gives us a more holistic understanding of a product and even the ethics of a company. If your product or service is “good” then you have nothing to worry about and the assessment will likely only increase business, if your product or service is more on the devilish side then you better go buy a disguise or making some changes to right the wrongs.
So why don’t we do more of these LCA things?
- Long process that takes data from lots of different sources
- Relatively new field with few experts
- Really requires a third party to not skew the results
Ok, so it looks like we aren’t quite there with a feasible implementation of LCA at a large scale. However, we are starting to see incentives from other programs such as LEED to incorporate building analysis and with better technology and transparency within businesses, LCA may be easier to implement in the near future.
So what else can we do to further incentivize businesses to perform LCA?
What if new products had a more stringent test they had to pass before getting into the hands of the public? A benchmark of sorts. I am currently thinking about the Food and Drug Association, even though I am not too sure how good a job they are currently doing. Well, we already do have a benchmark that is spelled out by the (CPSC) Consumer Product Safety Commission. These regulations safeguard the public from risks that products may have on the public.
What if we take these risks and expand upon them to incorporate a product’s life cycle? Products could get a rating based on their environmental friendliness and receive tax breaks as well as public acknowledgement. This would create an incentive for businesses to create both environmentally friendly products as well as business practices. While we know that creating hurdles for businesses to jump over does not create quick change, I believe that the things worth doing are sometimes the hardest.