Many people think of LCA’s as something that only businesses should perform to understand the environmental impact of a particular product or service, but how about an educational institution like a high school, college or university? Is there a need to perform a detailed Life-Cycle Analysis for an institution of higher learning? There’s still a lot of confusion regarding LCA’s and what they are and aren’t so we’ll try to “clear the air” regarding this hot topic.
A Life-Cycle Assessment is just that, an assessment of your current business practices as they relate to your environmental impact. It is a picture, a snapshot in time that reflects how your environmental practices are at this moment. The LCA is used as a roadmap to help guide experts both internal and external to your organization on process improvements that have the potential to save money and lessen your eco-footprint. Schools are certainly no exception to this process. As an organization in the “business” of educating students there are many processes that take place in an educational institution. You have cleaning crews, kitchen staff, transportation staff, professors, administrative staff, etc. The list goes on and on and each team uses materials and resources that have the potential of causing some harm to the environment.
Are the cleaners that are used eco-friendly? Do the classroom lights remain on all night or are they connected to occupancy sensors? Are computer systems shut down at the end of the day or between classes? These are just some of the items that are addressed in an LCA that have the potential to have a significant impact on the environment. Once the LCA is completed and the “roadmap” is drawn, the best possible route can be plotted on the road to sustainability. While the typical LCA can take about 16 weeks, there is an SLCA or Streamlined LCA which can be performed in half the time that is perfectly suitable for educational purposes. The SLCA focuses on key metrics like Carbon Emissions, Water Usage, Waste Output, and Energy Usage and combines them into an easy to read report that can be used for students and faculty alike.
Since high school and college students are at the forefront of the green movement, don’t you think it would make sense for your educational institution to have an SLCA performed?