Navigation Links
Researchers develop rapid method to measure carbon footprints

Researchers have developed new software that can rapidly calculate the carbon footprints of thousands of products simultaneously, a process that up to now has been time consuming and expensive. The methodology should help companies to accurately label products, and to design ways to reduce their environmental impacts, said Christoph Meinrenken, the project's leader and associate research scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute and Columbia Engineering. A new study, published online in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, describes the methodology.

The project is the result of a collaboration between the institute's Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy and PepsiCo, Inc. Its original aim was to evaluate and help standardize PepsiCo's calculations ofthe amount of carbon dioxide emitted when a product is made, packaged, distributed and disposed of. Started in 2007, it resulted in the first U.S. carbon footprint label certified by an impartial third party, for Tropicana orange juice. PepsiCo has been pilot-testing the methodology for other uses since 2011.

Meinrenken and his team used a life-cycle-analysis database--a tool used to assess the environmental impact of a product--that covered 1,137 PepsiCo products. They then developed three new techniques that work together, enabling them to calculate thousands of footprints within minutes, with minimal user input. The key component was a model that generates estimated emission factors for materials, eliminating manual mapping of a product's ingredients and packaging materials. Meinrenken said the automatically generated factors enable non-experts "to calculate approximate carbon footprints and alleviate resource constraints for companies embarking on large-scale product carbon footprinting." He said the software complies with guidelines sponsored by the nonprofit World Resources Institute, which provides standards against which carbon footprints can be audited.

Up until now, life-cycle-analysis has mostly been performed one product at a time. This imposes large requirements for personnel, expertise, and time, and few companies have enough employees with specialized expertise. Meinrenken said that some have tried to overcome this bottleneck by reverting to aggregate data and calculations, but they usually miss out on the microscopic level of detail that a proper analysis requires.

The researchers' approach was inspired by fields outside environmental science, Meinrenken said. "At companies like Facebook or Netflix, engineers employ statistical wizardry to mine vast datasets and essentially teach computers to predict, for instance, who will like a particular movie," he said. He used similar methods to mine detailed product and supply chain data. "For an environmental engineer, using such data to estimate how much the environment will 'like' certain products and services is especially rewarding," he said. "Consumers will be able to make more informed choices." The information can also help companies design and assess ways to lessen products' impacts, he said.

Al Halvorsen, senior director of sustainability at PepsiCo, said, "The newly developed software promises to not only save time and money for companies like PepsiCo, but also to provide fresh insights into how companies measure, manage, and reduce their carbon footprint in the future."

Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, said, "Fast carbon footprinting is a great example of how academic methodologies [coupled] with modern data processing and statistical tools can be brought to life and unlock their power in the real world." Meinrenken's team is now looking at transferring the methodology from carbon to other arenas, such as water use.


Contact: Kevin Krajick
The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Related biology news :

1. Researchers reveal a chemo-resistant cancer stem cell as cancers Achilles heel
2. Researchers use banker plants to help battle whitefly pests
3. Researchers find first evidence for a genetic cause for Barretts oesophagus
4. CIRM funds 6 UC San Diego stem cell researchers
5. Rice University researchers optimize photoluminescent probes to study DNA and more
6. Researchers identify biochemical functions for most of the human genome
7. NIH-funded researchers restore sense of smell in mice using genetic technique
8. UCLA researchers discover missing link between stem cells and immune system
9. Researchers develop new, less expensive nanolithography technique
10. BUSM researchers find potential key to halt progression, reverse damage from emphysema
11. Researchers launch new Rust-Tracker to monitor deadly wheat fungus in 27 nations
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Researchers develop rapid method to measure carbon footprints
(Date:6/9/2016)... in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint attendance control ... right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening of doors. ... ... ... Photo - ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... The Department of Transport Management (DOTM) ... million US Dollar project, for the , Supply ... Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , to ... implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international vendors participated ... was selected for the most compliant and innovative ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing ...  3D medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to the range ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016 /PRNewswire/ - BIOREM Inc. (TSX-V: BRM) ("Biorem" or "the ... major shareholders, Clean Technology Fund I, LP and Clean ... based venture capital funds which together hold approximately ... fully diluted, as converted basis), that they have entered ... equity holdings in Biorem to TUS Holdings Co. Ltd. ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Newly created 4Sight Medical ... to the healthcare market. The company's primary focus is on new product introductions, ... strategies that are necessary to help companies efficiently bring their products to market. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... on a range of subjects including policies, debt and investment ... Speaking at a lecture to the Canadian Economics ... the country,s inflation target, which is set by both the ... "In certain areas there needs to be frequent ... not sit down and address strategy together?" He ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a ... eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research ... by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape ...
Breaking Biology Technology: