Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Life Cycle and Why It Matters

Yesterday, on April 22nd, the world celebrated Earth Day. The threat of climate change has become critical in recent years, and this year, we encourage everyone to think about how we can individually impact climate change. Although it seems like a difficult, daunting task, we can make progress simply by starting to think about the life cycle.

The Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating Earth Month and urging people to become engaged in the battle against climate change. According to the EPA: "Forty-two percent of carbon pollution emissions in the U.S. are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. In every one of these stages of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact."

So, what's the life cycle, and how can we each individually impact it? The life cycle is a measure of sustainability that follows a product from its inception--including extraction of resources, to its final disposal. How we choose to produce and dispose of products, including food, technology, and buildings, has a direct impact on the environment and greenhouse gas emissions. Every stage in the life cycle--production, management, distribution, usage, and disposal--all require massive amounts of energy, and how we choose to engage with these products determines how much energy we use. Most of the energy used in the life cycle are fossil fuels, which release excess carbon and lead to further global warming.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency

How can you engage with the life cycle, and make a positive impact on the environment? The EPA offers a variety of tips for each stage of the life cycle:

  • Purchase products made from recycled materials. This encourages manufacturers to use recycled materials in their production, and reduces energy from extracting materials and resources.
  • Buy durable goods. By reducing the amount you buy, less energy is used and less material is wasted. For example, instead of buying plastic water bottles every day, buy a reusable one, and save money and resources.
  • Buy locally produced products. Transportation requires the burning of fossil fuels. Buy locally produced goods to cut back on future greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Turn off your electronics. When your electronics are fully charged, make sure to unplug them. "Vampire appliances" continue using energy even when they are fully charged. Also be sure to turn off lights, computers, and appliances when they aren't in use to further reduce your energy usage.
  • Recycle! Recycling goods prevents usable material from being sent to landfills. Producers can reuse this material for new products. Some states even offer tax credits for those who recycle. Learn what can be recycled or composted, and set an example for those around you.