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Life cycle analysis, Carbon footprint, Sustainability

Watkins, Richard (2015) Life cycle analysis, Carbon footprint, Sustainability. In: Evans, Judith and Foster, Alan, eds. Sustainable Retail Refrigeration. Wiley-Blackwell, UK, pp. 291-312. ISBN 0-470-65940-8. E-ISBN 978-0-470-65940-3. (KAR id:52624)

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The aim of Life Cycle Analysis is to try and evaluate the environmental impact of a device (or process), taking into account all the important contributing factors over its life. This can include the construction impacts and end of life issues, as well as any impact during the actual “use-phase” of the device.

In the context of retail refrigeration, by far the dominant environmental impact results from the use of energy to run the refrigeration plant. This also applies to almost anything that uses a large amount of energy during its operation. It is distinct from, e.g. the environmental impact of a building material (bricks, concrete, etc.) where the major lifetime impact issues from the production processes before use. However, although the “use-phase” of refrigeration plant dominates the lifetime environmental impact, the remaining impacts are still very significant. A detailed breakdown of the impacts is given later in this chapter.

An important point to note when talking of environmental impacts is that often these are in fact potential environmental impacts. For example, certain processes generate gases which can be harmful to human health, or perhaps potentially affect the global temperature. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty in many of the mechanisms that are affected by pollution, and whether a pollutant would have the opportunity to cause harm, and it is therefore essential to be aware that what we calculate in LCA are potential environmental impacts. This does not undermine the value of LCA, but recognizes and clarifies the basis on which LCAs are conducted.

LCA attempts to include all significant, potential environmental impacts. These impacts can be of a disparate nature, e.g. the effect on the ecological well-being of a forest (for wood production), and the direct impact on human health (e.g. sulphur dioxide’s effect on lung cancer). This leads to the question of how to compare different types of impact and whether a single index of environmental impact can be calculated. It is only by weighting different impact types that we can produce such a single indicator of overall impact. The idea is straightforward, but the weightings are entirely subjective, albeit that they may be decided on by an expert panel. It is important to remember this subjective nature of the single environmental impact index and to be aware of what weightings were used in arriving at it.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: refrigeration sustainable carbon footprint life cycle analysis coefficient of performance defrosting
Subjects: Q Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Richard Watkins
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2015 11:59 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:31 UTC
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