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How does your latte affect the environment?

Consumers are becoming more and more aware that every product or service they use affects the environment in some way. For instance, in the case of a takeaway cup of latte, you could think of the environmental costs of transporting the coffee thousands of miles to your local coffee shop, the energy needed to create the cup, and the landfill site used to dispose of it, but have you ever thought how that latte could actually affect biodiversity and the health of the soil itself? An invited group of internationally-renowned scientists will be meeting at the University of Surrey on 12 Jun 2006 - 13 Jun 2006 to examine just that, and to select the best indicators to measure this impact.

Thinking in terms of a product's life cycle, that is the whole supply chain supporting a product or service, allows a holistic perspective where not only the production and use of the product are considered, but also the acquisition of raw materials needed for the product and its waste management, as well as the transportation steps linking these stages. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an analytical tool for the systematic environmental assessment of a product or service through its entire life cycle. Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) is one of the phases of LCA, where the technical information gathered on the product system is translated into meaningful information that can be interpreted and understood by the targeted audience. There are still some gaps in the representation of environmental issues by LCIA, namely the impacts derived from land use such as on biodiversity and soil quality. Land use impacts are particularly relevant in the resource extraction stage of most product systems (mining; agriculture; forestry), and their omission from LCA reduces the credibility of this tool.

Experts from different sectors (academia, government, industry) have been engaged in extensive debate under the umbrella of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative on the key elements that need to be included in land use impact assessment for LCA. As an outcome of this debate, a framework for land use impact assessment in LCA has been defined, and will be used as a starting point for the discussions. This workshop will initiate the inter-disciplinary process to define the indicators best suited to introduce impacts on biodiversity and soil quality in LCA.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Surrey's Institute of Advanced Studies and UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and the International Council on Mining and Metals, ICMM. The workshop has been organised by The Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES), within the University of Surrey.

Stuart Miller | alfa
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