This blog was researched and written by Jack Fiocco, Sustainability Intern for the summer of 2023
As a smaller-sized company, Minimal Gear has a relatively minimal environmental footprint compared to other companies. However, we believe that it is still important to take responsibility for our impact and should constantly work towards minimizing it. To track our emissions, we follow the steps outlined within a Life Cycle Assessment, although we are years away from being able to create our own complete analysis.
What is a Life Cycle Assessment?
A Life Cycle Assessment is a tool to track the emissions of products from their creation to disposal. This allows for companies to take responsibility for the emissions of their products, since it helps them understand their full environmental cost and where they occur.
In the corporate world, LCAs are submitted under the compliance of ISO-14040 and ISO-14044 standards, often by third-party companies. As a small business, we created our estimates in-house, using data we could find publicly through research papers and public versions of LCA databases. OpenLCA, EcoInvent, and GaBi documentation were some of the sources used for us to track the impact of our products.
So what do we currently measure?
In short, all of our direct emissions from production to end-of-life. In longer form, we are looking at the Global Warming Potential of each of our products’ production, manufacturing, shipping, use, and end-of-life emissions. Global Warming Potential is a unit that determines the amount certain materials contribute to the greenhouse effect. Carbon Dioxide is used as its reference, meaning that CO2 always has a GWP of 1. This means that other gasses can be compared to a common baseline to determine their effect on the atmosphere. For example methane, which has a GWP of 25, signifies that 1 unit of methane is 25 times as effective as Carbon Dioxide at trapping heat. Representing our emissions with GWP allows us to have a simple measurement for the myriad of different processes we are looking at.
What this doesn’t cover are the indirect emissions tied to our products which are much harder to track. Areas like impact on ecosystem quality and resource depletion are examples of what this may include. Newer concerns, like the economic impact of our production are also beginning to be discussed in academic literature, and represent a more holistic approach towards measuring environmental impact.
What are we going to do with this information?
As exciting as obtaining data can be, this was not the main reason we decided to conduct an LCA for our products. The data from our LCA can help us determine best practices for potential future projects and allow us to track our quarterly emissions within the company. We don’t want to commit to anything yet, but conducting an LCA gives the opportunity to look into things like recycling projects, generating Climate Action Plans, and creating Greenhouse Gas Inventories to evolve with our future sales. If you have any questions or want to learn more about our LCA process, feel free to comment down below, send us an email at email@example.com, or reach out over social media!