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September 02, 2008


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Mario Vellandi

Hi Kumar,
I wrote a post yesterday on carbon footprints, and would love to get your perspective.
While I support accurate metrics, I believe carbon labels are too limiting for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. Thanks for your time!

Kumar Venkat

Thanks for your comments. I agree that carbon labels alone are not comprehensive enough. But a detailed life-cycle carbon footprint of a product/process -- tracked over a period of time -- is a good total indicator of the energy used, transition to renewable energy sources, any energy efficiencies implemented, etc. It also indirectly measures transport impacts, water usage, waste generation, etc., as reflected by their GHG emissions. All major GHGs are included in this analysis (CO2, CH4, N2O, ..), expressed in CO2 equivalents -- not only from energy use but from all parts of the process. We typically use a carbon footprint analysis as a process characterization and optimization tool. One of the advantages is the large amount of process data that can be efficiently captured in this single metric. Product labeling is just one of the simpler applications. The advantage of carbon footprint is the inherent simplicity of the metric -- analogous to the use of "time" in lean systems. (Note: "Lean" is based on the premise that compressing time reveals hidden quality problems and that their resolution leads to more efficient, cost-effective business processes.)

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