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Encouraging North Americans to Pollute Less, Consume Fewer Resources, and Use Less Energy since 2007.

(Better Late Than Never).


Product Life Energy

Pollution it is mostly associated with how much certain products pollute or how much pollution occurs when electricity is produced or when trash is burned or improperly disposed of. Rarely is the connection made between pollution and product development or pollution and a products time on Earth after you are done using it.

Polluting less means looking at what you do and purchase in a more comprehensive way than what you hear from the marketing agencies. What we buy often consumes energy while we are using it. Some products consume less energy than others. However, to truly pollute less, more aspects have to be considered than just the energy consumption during the time you own the product. What you purchase has to be manufactured, distributed, advertised, recycled, and disposed. Materials have to be located, equipment has to be built and moved, the materials have to be mined/harvested, transported around the globe, transformed, melted, shaped, etc. Some products are made from components that are made somewhere else by someone else. Manufacturing, distributing, selling, and disposing anything is a global and rather complicated affair. There are a lot of energy costs in every product and we know very little about those costs.

Products are sold because they are wanted or needed by the consumer and marketing/advertising is focused on the time the consumer owns the product. The fact that there are hidden energy costs is rather convenient from a marketing point of view. Researching those costs is difficult. It takes time, a lot of money, and cooperation by the manufacturer (which is rarely available since a negative outcome of the research will hurt sales of the product). Even the people who make the product do not know the life time energy costs of their products. When you have bought it, it is not their responsibility any longer how much energy it costs to return the product components and material into the cycle of manufacturing.

What needs to be looked at is not "product USE energy" but "product LIFE energy". What needs to be investigated is not only how much energy YOU use while using a product, but how much energy it costs SOCIETY to supply you with that product from beginning to end. Don't pat yourself on the back just because the product you use has a benefit while you are using it. That does not mean (at all) that your product is better than other products in regard to product life energy costs. Depending on the product (as well as you) it may even be the opposite. Believing that your product's less polluting effects on the environment are offsetting any negative effects before and after you own this product without having scientific data available is environmental romanticism. If everybody believes whatever they want to believe nothing will change.

Generally speaking..

Since data about product life energy is not available (or it is disputed) I will not give more than general advice in regard to types of products. Products appear in many forms. Hot water is a product. A car or a pencil are products. Public transportation is a product. Even this website is a product. For all practical purposes, if it is made or created by human beings it is a product.

• If the product is to be used only for a short time it is best to use a product made from natural materials that can naturally decompose in a few months.

• If the product is to last longer it is best if the materials can all be easily separated and reused. If the materials are human-made it is better if they are made with little energy and without toxic by-products.

• Materials that cannot be reused should be avoided.

• It is better to use a machine that uses human energy than a machine that uses fossil fuels or electricity.

• If the product is a necessary item and has little environmental impact in relation to the estimated energy it costs to replace it, it is better to keep it in operation longer.

• If it is an option (and it usually is, we are just not used to it) it is best to not use a product at all.

• If credible research or data surfaces that contradicts opinions offered here, those opinions will be revised immediately.



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