Why Is Ownership an Issue? Exploring Factors That Determine Public Acceptance of Product-Service Systems
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The thermodynamic implications of different bioethanol production routes from wheat straw (a cellulosic co-product or ‘waste’ stream) have been evaluated. Comparative thermodynamic (energy and exergy) analysis gives rise to alternative insights into the relative performance of various process chains. Energy analysis of four different production paths were firstly analysed via the consideration of mechanical work, temperature changes and separating techniques. The Net Energy Value (NEV) of each production path or route was then evaluated, including the effect of system boundary expansion. In contrast, the thermodynamic property known as ‘exergy’ reflects the ability of undertake ‘useful work’, but does not represent well heating processes. Exergetic efficiencies were consequently obtained via chemical and physical exergy calculations, along with some of the electrical inputs to the different processes. The exergetic ’improvement potentials’ of the process stages were then determined using the exergetic efficiencies and irreversibility values respectively. These estimates will enable industrialists and policy makers to take account of some of the ramifications of alternative bioethanol production routes in a low carbon future.
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Advocated as a solution to a range of economic, environmental and social problems, the sharing economy has grown rapidly in recent years. However, despite rising up the political agenda, the concept has been increasingly critiqued in relation to unintended economic and social consequences. Whilst existing research has explored the motivations of existing participants in sharing-based practices and business models, little is yet known about wider public perceptions of the sharing economy. Investigating public discourses, this paper explores how citizens may respond to attempts to mainstream the sharing economy, discussing wider desires and concerns surrounding the concept. In a series of four two-day workshops (n = 51), we utilised deliberative research methods to engage participants in discussion surrounding the sharing economy and its role within a more sustainable, resource efficient future. Overall, positive perceptions dominated discussions, with participants independently highlighting reduced waste and resource use, increased access to unaffordable goods, and increased community cohesion as key benefits of sharing. However, echoing existing critiques, a number of concerns were also raised. Our findings suggest that, in addition to personal interests (such as affordability, convenience, and hygiene), public acceptability of the sharing economy was contingent on it meeting a number of broader social values. These include desire to: foster social equality, in relation to both the opportunity and benefits promised by the sharing economy; encourage and support the development of strong and independent local communities; and ensure that business practices operate fairly in the shared interest of business, consumers and the environment. Given the implications for everyday life and consumption practices, we argue public perspectives need to be given consideration within the debate surrounding which aspects of the sharing economy should, and should not, be fostered.
Keywords: sharing economy; sustainable consumption; public perceptions’ discourses; deliberative research
CIEMAP researcher Jannik Giesekam has published a new article in a Special Issue of Energy and Buildings. The Special Issue is titled Embodied Energy and Carbon Efficiency: The Next Major Step Towards Zero-Impact Buildings. The paper presents a review of the carbon reduction targets set by the largest UK construction firms and discusses the challenges in aligning these with sectoral and national carbon reduction commitments. This follows on from prior CIEMAP work demonstrating the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions from construction activity.
In the face of a changing climate, a growing number of construction firms are adopting carbon reduction targets on individual projects and across their portfolios. In the wake of the Paris Agreement, some firms are seeking a means of aligning their targets with sectoral, national and international mitigation commitments. There are numerous ways by which such an alignment can be achieved, each requiring different assumptions. Using data from the UK construction industry, this paper reviews current company commitments and progress in carbon mitigation; analyses the unique challenges in aligning construction targets, and presents a series of possible sectoral decarbonisation trajectories. The results highlight the disparity between current company targets and the range of possible trajectories. It is clear that a cross-industry dialogue is urgently required to establish an appropriate response that delivers both a widely-accepted target trajectory and a plan for its delivery. This paper is intended to stimulate and support this necessary debate by illustrating the impact of different methodological assumptions and highlighting the critical features of an appropriate response.
Read the full paper at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enbuild.2018.01.023
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The circular economy is a high priority subject of discussion in the current political and academic contexts; however, practical approaches in relevant disciplines like design are in need of development. This article proposes a conceptual framework for circular product design, based on four multiple loops strategies: (I) design to slow the loops, (II) design to close the loops, (III) design for bio-inspired loops, and (IV) design for bio-based loops. Recent literature, notably on life cycle design strategies, the circular economy conceptual model and the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package, is reviewed and product design cases illustrating each of the proposed are analysed. The article argues that different ‘circular’ approaches centred upon the life cycle design phases can provide practical guiding strategies during the design process and thus promote sustainable design solutions for the circular economy within the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.
CIEMAP researcher Jannik Giesekam has published a new briefing paper in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Engineering Sustainability. The paper is an accessible summary of the current and upcoming guidance related to embodied carbon assessment in buildings. This follows on from previous CIEMAP work showing the urgent need to reduce embodied emissions from construction activity.
The construction industry, through its activities and supply chains as well as the operation of the assets that it creates, is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Embodied carbon dioxide emissions associated with the construction of new assets constitute a growing share of whole-life emissions across all project types and make up nearly a quarter of all annual emissions from the UK built environment. Yet these embodied emissions are still rarely assessed in practice, owing to the perceived difficulty and lack of supporting guidance for practitioners conducting an assessment. This briefing paper retraces recent advances in the field of embodied carbon dioxide assessment and highlights existing and forthcoming practical guidance that could support more widespread assessment. The paper constitutes a where-to rather than a how-to, directing assessors towards appropriate resources, of which there are many. Although the paper does highlight some remaining gaps in the field and identifies corresponding research priorities, recent additions to the body of guidance are generally sufficient to support more widespread assessment. Now, the industry must demonstrate its commitment to tackling climate change by using this guidance to drive deeper carbon dioxide reduction.
Read the full paper at: https://doi.org/10.1680/jensu.17.00032
An 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions produced within the EU by 2050 from 1990 may sound impressive, but it is not the whole story, as we discuss in a new paper published in Climate Policy.
The EU’s ‘Hidden’ Carbon Footprint
There is more than one way to calculate national carbon footprints and the way emissions are currently counted casts EU countries in a favourable light. Climate targets focus on greenhouse gases produced within the EU, not those required to support the consumption of its residents. While emissions produced within the EU’s territory – by its factories, power plants, buildings, cars and so on – are declining, emissions driven by EU consumption are rising.
Greenouse gases become embodied in products as energy is used, transforming raw materials into buildings, clothes, phones or cars. Some of these materials and products will be mined and manufactured abroad, and the EU imports more than it exports. As a result, the EU ‘consumes’ about 40% more emissions than it produces.
In our research, we looked across the whole EU supply chain (including overseas territory) to see where greenhouse gases are expended in the materials, transportation, construction, use, disposal and replacement of everything from buildings and cars to furniture and packaging. We calculated how many of these emissions are included/excluded from existing EU climate policies and whether policies could be extended to capture additional emissions as materials are transformed into products. Cutting carbon along product supply chains can also reduce production costs, so addressing the full supply chain emissions could realise cost savings too.
Climate Policies Neglect Supply Chain Opportunities
The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is not doing enough to incentivise low carbon innovations in energy intensive industries and even if it was effective, the industries it addresses only produce 45% of the EU’s emissions. Alongside renewable energy targets, the EU’s climate package relies on energy efficiency measures to deliver its climate targets. Energy efficiency standards have made progress in reducing the energy consumed when using electronic goods, heating buildings and driving cars (i.e. in use). Yet this does not address all the energy needed to produce the EU’s homes, cars, phones, roads, food etc.
Taking a closer look at buildings and cars purchased by EU residents: the EU’s Building Performance Directive tackles the energy efficiency of buildings in use. However, an equivalent amount of the carbon used to heat buildings (i.e. in use) is used in their construction. Whilst 30% of the supply chain emissions are produced in sectors covered by the EU ETS (mainly power and material processing sectors), and are arguably addressed by existing climate policies, 30% sit outside EU climate policy altogether.
For cars, we can see that nearly three quarters of the supply chain carbon is emitted when driving (i.e. in-use) and subject to energy efficiency standards. All in all, however, 20% is left outside the scope of EU climate policy.
Extending European Energy Efficiency Standards to Include Material Use
This same analysis we have applied to cars and buildings can equally be applied to appliances, electronics, furniture, clothes, packaging etc. Their supply chains emit the equivalent of 40% of EU production emissions, with two thirds completely outside the scope of existing policies. Therefore there is significant potential for EU product policies to address climate change in this area.
Energy efficiency regulations and standards could be extended to include embodied emissions. For example, the Ecodesign Directive, the EU’s tool to improve the energy efficiency of electronics and appliances, does have a mechanism to address some aspects of embodied emissions, including promoting easy to repair designs which would reduce emissions embodied in material use. However, this was introduced when embodied emissions data was sparse and of poor quality. Without mandatory material efficiency standards this has not been utilised.
By addressing material efficiency alongside energy efficiency our research indicates that these measures can enhance the policy package for climate mitigation. There is however work to be done on designing the right policies to exploit these opportunities and this needs to be underpinned by a mainstreaming of knowledge of embodied emissions flows into policy, as well as research. In the ideal scenario we can provide a truer picture of the EU’s carbon footprint while simultaneously uncovering ways to substantially reduce it and save costs in the process.
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