Dr. Mary Ann Curran is keynote speaker for our Thursday, November 15 VLS meeting at 9:00 PM US EST. Her keynote addresss is "Achieving Sustainability through Life Cycle Assessment and Management". Mary Ann is an internationally-recognized expert in Life Cycle Assessment. She is retiring from the US Environmental Protection Agency on November 3 and is going into private practice.
Sustainability is, of course, not a recent concept, but our understanding of what it means and what we need to do to meet the challenge it presents continues to grow. Throughout the ages, nations have had to address the issue of harmony between the environment, society and the economy. At a simple definition, sustainability focuses on maintaining, or improving, the quality of life (environmental, economic, and social) for everyone without causing irreparable damage to the earth (as well its inhabitants). As society continues to become more complex and global, sustainability requires us to look broadly at our actions, as well as our inactions. We must find innovative ways to change institutional structures and influence individual behavior on the global level. Sustainability crosses all business and economic sectors and all areas of human activity.
Decisions about environmental, economic, and technical improvement must be evaluated against the overall, system-wide performance of a product, process or activity. Such a life cycle perspective enables decision makers to identify potential tradeoffs between raw material extraction, manufacturing, product use and reuse, and end-of-life operations. Much activity has been conducted recently toward the development of practical and useful life cycle based tools. In addition to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology itself, approaches for Life Cycle Costing, Life Cycle Design, and Life Cycle Management continue to be developed. Resource and waste management also demand the broader analysis that a life cycle tool offers in order to maximize benefits. This presentation covers brief definitions of the various life-cycle based approaches, summarizes the current state-of-the-practice of each, and explores how the holistic nature of such cradle-to-grave, life cycle approaches provides an essential basis for moving toward sustainability.