Looking for the Role of Product Life Cycle Assessment in the Hudson Valley

Life Cycle Assessment

A Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an attempt to evaluate all environmental impacts associated with a product, process, or activity. This includes considering impacts at all stages of the product, including raw material extraction, production, product use, and disposal/reuse.

Image Credit: ti-films.com

Image Credit: ti-films.com

A LCA can be particularly important when dealing with sustainability related marketing claims. For instance, you would not want to claim your product causes less air emissions than another product only to be proved wrong, because you forgot to consider all stages of your product’s life cycle.

Food and beverage LCAs have represented approximately 25% of all LCAs. Courtney Strong, Inc. is trying to determine if LCAs of local food & beverage products could play a role in the growing local, organic, and sustainable food movements of the Hudson Valley. These LCAs could provide information to help both producers and consumers make better choices.

 

Courtney Strong, Inc.

Image Credit: Courtneystrong.com

Image Credit: Courtneystrong.com

Courtney Strong, Inc., with offices in Kingston, NY, and Washington, DC, is developing this project to begin to consider the role of life cycle assessment regionally in the Hudson Valley. However, this life cycle assessment project is just one of many projects that the firm is responsible for.

Courtney Strong, Inc. is a marketing and communications firm with a focus on clients involved in the clean energy sector. Some of Courtney Strong, Inc.’s clients have included NYSERDA, Institute for Building Technology & Safety, George Washington University, SUNY Orange, SUNY Ulster, Town of Red Hook, Center for Resource Solutions, and Solar Energy Consortium.

As a regional outreach contractor for NYSERDA’s EDGE (Economic Development Growth Extension) program, Courtney Strong, Inc. is a primary resource in Westchester and the other counties in the Mid-Hudson to educate and provide technical assistance to commercial, institutional, municipal, and residential groups trying meet sustainable energy goals through NYSERDA funding and other economic development. For NYSERDA’s EDGE program, they also help support the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council encouraging sustainability and resiliency in economic development.

The first project in Courtney Strong, Inc.’s effort to bring life cycle assessment thinking to more people in the Hudson valley may be focused on aquaponics systems.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics (growing plants in water (without soil)) and aquaculture (raising fish in tanks). The combination of the two works as an advantage to each: the waste produced by the fish is converted into nutrients that the plants can use to grow while the plants also filter the water that the fish live in.

Image Credit: Aquaponicsource.com

Image Credit: Aquaponicsource.com

Aquaponic systems are recycling their water back into the system. Many systems have added their own personalized components and are experimenting with the technique as a whole. In general, they are promoted by those in the aquaponics field as sustainable fish and produce producing operations.

 

Image Credit: theaquaponicsource.com

(Image Credit: theaquaponicsource.com)

 

Progress / My Role

In my role as an intern for Courtney Strong, I have been working on the LCA project. I have been working from my home in Brooklyn, NY, with a few visits up to the Hudson Valley. So far, I have conducted background research on food LCAs (looking at aquaculture system, hydroponic system and aquaponic system LCAs in particular), reached out to potential stakeholders to get their thoughts on the project, and reached out to LCA experts to determine their fit for the project. In addition, I have begun to consider what a regional LCA dynamic communication network would have to be like.

Goals

One of our main goals of this Hudson Valley LCA project is beginning a number of conversations. Some of the conversations we want to start with this project include:

  • How do we get food producers and consumers realizing that in order to make sustainable decisions, one must consider all aspects of production from beginning of product to the table?
  • What role can each entity provide to the economic development of the industry?
  • How do we get producers to consider their actions as a part of an entire coordinated industry, instead of competitors?

I am completing earning credit for this internship from Bard Center for Environmental Policy, where I am enrolled in a master’s degree program. Bard prepared me for the duties of the internship by teaching me how to take technical & interdisciplinary information and be able to write and communicate it to a wider audience.

 

 

About emilymccarthy

Emily McCarthy, MS’15, is a first year graduate student here at Bard Center for Environmental Policy with an interest in industrial ecology.