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Sustainability 2014, 6(3), 1386-1413; doi:10.3390/su6031386
Article

Integrated Metrics for Improving the Life Cycle Approach to Assessing Product System Sustainability

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1 US Environmental Protection Agency, National Risk Management Laboratory, 26 W Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA 2 Global Product Stewardship and Product Supply, The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 December 2013 / Revised: 7 March 2014 / Accepted: 10 March 2014 / Published: 19 March 2014
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Abstract

Life cycle approaches are critical for identifying and reducing environmental burdens of products. While these methods can indicate potential environmental impacts of a product, current Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods fail to integrate the multiple impacts of a system into unified measures of social, economic or environmental performance related to sustainability. Integrated metrics that combine multiple aspects of system performance based on a common scientific or economic principle have proven to be valuable for sustainability evaluation. In this work, we propose methods of adapting four integrated metrics for use with LCAs of product systems: ecological footprint, emergy, green net value added, and Fisher information. These metrics provide information on the full product system in land, energy, monetary equivalents, and as a unitless information index; each bundled with one or more indicators for reporting. When used together and for relative comparison, integrated metrics provide a broader coverage of sustainability aspects from multiple theoretical perspectives that is more likely to illuminate potential issues than individual impact indicators. These integrated metrics are recommended for use in combination with traditional indicators used in LCA. Future work will test and demonstrate the value of using these integrated metrics and combinations to assess product system sustainability.
Keywords: product sustainability; sustainability metrics; sustainability indicators; life cycle assessment; ecological footprint; emergy; Fisher information; green net value added; consumer products product sustainability; sustainability metrics; sustainability indicators; life cycle assessment; ecological footprint; emergy; Fisher information; green net value added; consumer products
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ingwersen, W.; Cabezas, H.; Weisbrod, A.V.; Eason, T.; Demeke, B.; Ma, X.; Hawkins, T.R.; Lee, S.-J.; Bare, J.C.; Ceja, M. Integrated Metrics for Improving the Life Cycle Approach to Assessing Product System Sustainability. Sustainability 2014, 6, 1386-1413.

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