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Demystifying and adapting life-cycle assessment to facilitate meaningful early-stage sustainable product development

Approximately 80%-90% of a product’s total life-cycle costs (impacts) are determined by decisions  made during the product development phase (Graedel et al., 1995: 17). While there are design tools  and methods for evaluating environmental impacts, these are often complex to use, require extensive  precision, and are resource- and time-intensive. Thus, the current options are largely ineffective for  use during early-stage sustainable product development (SPD) (Cheng et al., 2014). To fulfill a  critical role in the achievement of a more sustainable future, product designers require timely, user friendly information and tools that can be used to help them to make more environmentally beneficial design decisions. Further, these designers must know how to access and use that  information effectively. Via a transdisciplinary approach, we will develop, incorporate, and evaluate  accessible, empowering, and meaningful environmental impact data into early-stage product  development projects within industrial design at Virginia Tech. Our innovative approach seeks to  address the barriers to more comprehensive consideration and incorporation of environmental data  and decision-making during early-stage SPD.