Relevant publications by others: Yardsticks for Sustainability
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Yardsticks for Sustainability
By: Mayank Bhatnagar
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2003 20:43:30 Europe/Amsterdam
Subject: Answer.: [o2mailinglist] Living Green Expo - www.livinggreenexpo.org/
Leading a more sustainable existence can not only save you money and improve your health and the health of your community and the planet, it's also fun and fulfilling. It's a great way of better meeting people's needs by giving us more of what we want (e.g. health, a clean environment, personal time) and less of what we never wanted (e.g. illness, pollution, stress).
While we have many choices that can significantly reduce the impact of our daily lives and move us in the direction of long-term sustainability, today's society presents us with very few choices for living a truly sustainable life. The Living Green Expo uses a two-tiered approach to"living green:" Low Impact Living and Long-term Sustainability.
Low Impact Living reduces environmental impact by using a product or service
or adopting a behavior that:
Uses less energy
Is less toxic
Contains recycled material
Is derived from plants
Uses reduced packaging
Is rebuilt, reconditioned or reused
Is local/regionally produced
To achieve Long-term Sustainability:
- What we extract from the Earth as mined metals, minerals, radioactive or fossil fuels should not accumulate long-term in the environment as products or wastes.
- What we make synthetically - chemicals, pesticides, plastics, etc. -should not accumulate long-term in the environment as used-up products or related wastes.
- Natural systems and the biodiversity they support should not be irreversibly degraded, manipulated or consumed by human activities.
- The bounty of the Earth - her food, raw materials, life supporting systems, etc. - should be used justly and efficiently to meet the needs of human beings both locally and globally./ol
The Living Green Expo's model for Long-term Sustainability is based on the four principals of the Natural Step, a widely used science-based framework.
Low-impact living criteria:
A product that uses significantly less energy (either electricity or fossil fuel) to accomplish its task relative to a comparable product or to an earlier version of the same product by the same manufacturer. Sustainability ultimately requires that energy be derived from renewable sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal. Examples: energy efficient lighting, appliances, vehicles, smart growth, and telecommuting technologies and practices.
A product containing a significantly less amounts of toxic substances relative to a comparable product or a product reformulated to be less toxic. Examples: environmentally friendly cleaning products, low VOC paints, mercury free vehicles, certified sustainable wood or plastic wood
vs. arsenic treated wood, and organic lawn and garden products and techniques.
Recycled Content (Post-Consumer):
A product containing materials that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream after consumer use (post-consumer). Examples: recycled paper, carpet, paint, plastic wood, electronics which allow for easy disassembly and extended producer responsibility for recycling components.
A product derived from renewable resources, including fiber crops; chemical extracts from oilseeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables (such as corn and soybeans); agricultural residues; and wood wastes generated from processing and manufacturing operations. These products stand in contrast to those made from fossil fuels (such as petroleum) and other less renewable resources (such as virgin timber). Examples: bio-fuels, biological industrial lubricants, office furniture made from plant waste, and non-wood paper products.
A product that requires less water to operate, or to manufacture than a comparable product, or a different version of the same product from the same manufacturer. Examples: water conserving home appliances and water conserving lawn and garden care.
A product presented for use with less packaging or alternative methods of packaging or shipping. Example: packaging which uses biodegradable materials rather than polystyrene, or is sold in bulk rather than individual packaging.
A product refurbished to a level less than a total remanufacture. The warranty is by the rebuilder, and may be different than the same product when new or remanufactured. Also called refurbished or remanufactured, e.g. a product restored to its original condition by extensive rebuilding, usually given an equal or better warranty than a new product. Examples: rebuilt and reconditioned electronic and computer components.
A product produced nearby to the location of its use, relative to the origins of products of comparable use. Local and regional sources of raw materials for the product, when possible, enhance the environmental and societal benefits of such products. Benefits of local and regional production include both minimizing the energy needs for transporting goods and materials and supporting local suppliers, workers, communities and economies.
A product or practice may, in addition to its lesser environmental impacts, contribute to a more sustainable society by virtue of how its production affects people. "Fair trade" items that pay enhanced or living wages to producers, clothing that is not produced under sweatshop conditions, or approaches that higher local under-employed workers are examples of socially responsible business practices. Practices that strengthen a local economy and thereby enhance the security and prosperity of the local community are other examples. Meeting the Socially Responsible criterion on its own is not sufficient for a product, service, or approach to be accepted in the Living Green Expo.
The following categories reflect the findings of the Union of Concerned Scientists with regard to the most ecologically harmful consumer activities associated with current lifestyles:
Transportation. Products or approaches that:
- Would reduce the use of 100% fossil-fueled vehicles.
- Present alternatives to the purchase and use of fossil-fueled vehicles.
- Provide transportation that is more fuel-efficient and less polluting than conventional vehicles (note: this could include natural gas, which is a fossil fuel)
- Would result in less need for travel (e.g., telecommuting, walkable/bikable community design, "location-efficient" mortgages).
- Encourage lifestyle choices that support walking, biking, or public transportation.
Food. Products or approaches that have several of the following attributes:
- Promote stewardship of the land.
- Are regionally or locally produced.
- Are produced on smaller scale farms.
- Are economically sustainable for the producer.
- Are raised with minimal if any pesticide or herbicide use, and without the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics, growth hormones or genetically modified organisms.
- Come from animals raised in humane management systems.
- Utilize appropriate sustainable technologies.
- Promote the consumption of sustainably raised local and regional food products.
Household Operations. Products or approaches that:
- Encourage people to purchase housing that is more centrally located for their lifestyle destinations, minimizes the consumption of undeveloped land, and/or is constructed with materials and techniques that lessen environmental impacts both during construction and over the life of the
- Reduce the burning of fossil fuels and nuclear energy for home heating and hot water.
- Increase the efficiency of lighting and reduce the energy use of other household appliances.
- Increase the demand for, accessibility to or use of renewable energy.
Criteria for Long-Term Sustainability
Based on the Natural Step framework
- What we extract from the Earth as mined metals, minerals, radioactive or fossil fuels should not accumulate long-term in the environment as products or wastes. Products or approaches that do not utilize raw materials that are extracted from below the earth's surface and whose waste products (or the products themselves) then accumulate at the surface as useless or toxic waste. Ideally, the product or approach uses natural materials that break down via natural processes, or do not otherwise contribute to the growing mountains of societal waste. A "cradle-to-cradle" recycling, reconditioning
or re-use system built into the product cycle may be permissible for products that use extracted raw materials. Re-use of abundant raw materials like silicates (in sands) and hydrogen (in water) is preferable.Specifically regarding energy, products or approaches that do not require
burning fossil or nuclear fuel but rather employ renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, fuel cells, muscle, etc.) meet this criterion.
- What we make synthetically - chemicals, pesticides, plastics, etc. - should not accumulate long-term in the environment as used-up products or related wastes. Products or approaches that do not utilize synthetic chemicals (those not found elsewhere in nature) and whose waste products or
the products themselves do not accumulate as useless or toxic waste.
Ideally, the product or approach uses naturally occurring materials that are readily re-assimilated into the Earth via natural processes (e.g., composting). Human society does not have the scientific knowledge or resources to determine the "safety" of all the synthetic chemicals in use, so our sustainability criteria err on the side of caution. A "cradle-to-cradle" recycling, reconditioning or re-use system built into the product cycle may be permissible for products that use synthetic chemicals, particularly in the case of products that greatly benefit the overall achievement of sustainability (e.g., chemicals used in the manufacture of solar panels).
- Natural systems and the biodiversity they support should not be irreversibly degraded, manipulated or consumed by human activities. Products or approaches that do not impair the ability of the Earth to provide life-giving services (e.g., farming that builds soils and restores fertility, timber harvesting that manages for the long-term health of forest ecosystems, or harvesting fish so as not to bring about collapse of the source fishery). Other life-giving services of natural systems include our ecosystems' capacities to detoxify or otherwise assimilate waste products.
Examples of sustainable products and approaches would be those that avoid wetland destruction (or better yet, support wetland restoration), those that treat wastewater without overburdening lakes and rivers that receive the treated outfalls, or those that do not recombine genetic material to form organisms that may alter ecosystems or other by-stander organisms.
- The bounty of the Earth - her food, raw materials, life supporting systems, etc. - should be used justly and efficiently to meet the needs of human beings both locally and globally. This combines the ethical matter of equitable distribution of goods and services to meet human needs with a duty to meet these needs in as efficient a manner as possible. It screens for products or approaches that help create a more just society, for example, by not employing sweatshop labor or not pushing a nation to irrevocably deplete its own resources. This criterion further encourages products or approaches
that meet basic human needs for food, health, shelter, clean water, etc., in ways that do not degrade the environment (referring back to the first three criteria). Finally, it screens for significantly increased energy efficiencies, reductions in raw materials inputs, and the reducing the amount of waste and pollution produced relative to the products and approaches in current general use.
Additional information about the Natural Step and these four principles (also called "system conditions") can be found on the Natural Step US web site (www.naturalstep.org) or on the Alliance for Sustainability web site (www.mtn.org/iasa/tnsintro.html)...."
Relevant publications by others: Yardsticks for Sustainability
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