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Role of uncertainty in streamlined life cycle assessment--exploring the case of petrochemical refineries and polymer manufacturing units

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Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used in the chemical process sector to compare the environmental merits of different product or process alternatives. One of the tasks that involves much time and cost in LCA studies is the specification of the

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used in the chemical process sector to compare the environmental merits of different product or process alternatives. One of the tasks that involves much time and cost in LCA studies is the specification of the exact materials and processes modeled which has limited its widespread application. To overcome this, researchers have recently created probabilistic underspecification as an LCA streamlining method, which uses a structured data classification system to enable an LCA modeler to specify materials and processes in a less precise manner. This study presents a statistical procedure to understand when streamlined LCA methods can be used, and what their impact on overall model uncertainty is. Petrochemicals and polymer product systems were chosen to examine the impacts of underspecification and mis-specification applied to LCA modeling. Ecoinvent database, extracted using GaBi software, was used for data pertaining to generic crude oil refining and polymer manufacturing modules. By assessing the variation in LCA results arising out of streamlined materials classification, the developed statistics estimate the amount of overall error incurred by underspecifying and mis-specifying material impact data in streamlined LCA. To test the impact of underspecification and mis-specification at the level of a product footprint, case studies of HDPE containers and aerosol air fresheners were conducted. Results indicate that the variation in LCA results decreases as the specificity of materials increases. For the product systems examined, results show that most of the variability in impact assessment is due to the differences in the regions from which the environmental impact datasets were collected; the lower levels of categorization of materials have relatively smaller influence on the variance. Analyses further signify that only certain environmental impact categories viz. global warming potential, freshwater eutrophication, freshwater ecotoxicity, human toxicity and terrestrial ecotoxicity are affected by geographic variations. Outcomes for the case studies point out that the error in the estimation of global warming potential increases as the specificity of a component of the product decreases. Fossil depletion impact estimates remain relatively robust to underspecification. Further, the results of LCA are much more sensitive to underspecification of materials and processes than mis-specification.

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Agent

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Date Created
2014

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The interpersonal determinants of green purchasing: an assessment of the empirical record

Description

This study investigates how well prominent behavioral theories from social psychology explain green purchasing behavior (GPB). I assess three prominent theories in terms of their suitability for GPB research, their attractiveness to GPB empiricists, and the strength of their empirical

This study investigates how well prominent behavioral theories from social psychology explain green purchasing behavior (GPB). I assess three prominent theories in terms of their suitability for GPB research, their attractiveness to GPB empiricists, and the strength of their empirical evidence when applied to GPB. First, a qualitative assessment of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), Norm Activation Theory (NAT), and Value-Belief-Norm Theory (VBN) is conducted to evaluate a) how well the phenomenon and concepts in each theory match the characteristics of pro-environmental behavior and b) how well the assumptions made in each theory match common assumptions made in purchasing theory. Second, a quantitative assessment of these three theories is conducted in which r2 values and methodological parameters (e.g., sample size) are collected from a sample of 21 empirical studies on GPB to evaluate the accuracy and generalize-ability of empirical evidence. In the qualitative assessment, the results show each theory has its advantages and disadvantages. The results also provide a theoretically-grounded roadmap for modifying each theory to be more suitable for GPB research. In the quantitative assessment, the TPB outperforms the other two theories in every aspect taken into consideration. It proves to 1) create the most accurate models 2) be supported by the most generalize-able empirical evidence and 3) be the most attractive theory to empiricists. Although the TPB establishes itself as the best foundational theory for an empiricist to start from, it's clear that a more comprehensive model is needed to achieve consistent results and improve our understanding of GPB. NAT and the Theory of Interpersonal Behavior (TIB) offer pathways to extend the TPB. The TIB seems particularly apt for this endeavor, while VBN does not appear to have much to offer. Overall, the TPB has already proven to hold a relatively high predictive value. But with the state of ecosystem services continuing to decline on a global scale, it's important for models of GPB to become more accurate and reliable. Better models have the capacity to help marketing professionals, product developers, and policy makers develop strategies for encouraging consumers to buy green products.

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Date Created
2012

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Integrating environmentally responsible design with life cycle assessment in product and process development for sustainability

Description

Industrial activities have damaged the natural environment at an unprecedented scale. A number of approaches to environmentally responsible design and sustainability have been developed that are aimed at minimizing negative impacts derived from products on the environment. Environmental assessment methods

Industrial activities have damaged the natural environment at an unprecedented scale. A number of approaches to environmentally responsible design and sustainability have been developed that are aimed at minimizing negative impacts derived from products on the environment. Environmental assessment methods exist as well to measure these impacts. Major environmentally responsible approaches to design and sustainability were analyzed using content analysis techniques. The results show several recommendations to minimize product impacts through design, and dimensions to which they belong. Two products made by a manufacturing firm with exceptional commitment to environmental responsibility were studied to understand how design approaches and assessment methods were used in their development. The results showed that the company used several strategies for environmentally responsible design as well as assessment methods in product and process machine design, both of which resulted in reduced environmental impacts of their products. Factors that contributed positively to reduce impacts are the use of measurement systems alongside environmentally responsible design, as well as inspiring innovations by observing how natural systems work. From a managerial perspective, positive influencing factors included a commitment to environmental responsibility from the executive level of the company and a clear vision about sustainability that has been instilled from the top through every level of employees. Additionally, a high degree of collaboration between the company and its suppliers and customers was instrumental in making the success possible.

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Agent

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Date Created
2014