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.