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Concept: Carbon footprint


Galicia is an Autonomous Community located in the north-west of Spain. As a starting point to implement mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change, a regional greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory is needed. So far, the only regional GHG inventories available are limited to the territorial emissions of those production activities which are expected to cause major environmental degradation. An alternative approach has been followed here to quantify all the on-site (direct) and embodied (indirect) GHG emissions related to all Galician production and consumption activities. The carbon footprint (CF) was calculated following the territorial life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology for data collection, that combines bottom-up and top-down approaches. The most up-to-date statistical data and life cycle inventories available were used to compute all GHG emissions. This case study represents a leap of scale when compared to existing studies, thus addressing the issue of double counting, which arises when considering all the production activities of a large region. The CF of the consumption activities in Galicia is 17.8 ktCO2e/year, with 88% allocated to Galician inhabitants and 12% to tourist consumption. The proposed methodology also identifies the main important contributors to GHG emissions and shows where regional reduction efforts should be made. The major contributor to the CF of inhabitants is housing (32%), followed by food consumption (29%). Within the CF of tourist consumption, the share of transport is highest (59%), followed by housing (26%). The CF of Galician production reaches 34.9 MtCO2e/y, and its major contributor is electricity production (21%), followed by food manufacturing (19%). Our results have been compared to those reported for other regions, actions aimed at reducing GHG emissions have been proposed, and data gaps and limitations identified.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Spain, Natural gas, Galicia, Greenhouse gas, Life cycle assessment, Carbon footprint


Life cycle thinking asks companies and consumers to take responsibility for emissions along their entire supply chain. As the world economy becomes more complex it is increasingly difficult to connect consumers and other downstream users to the origins of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Given the important role of subnational entities - cities, states, and companies - in GHG abatement efforts, it would be advantageous to better link downstream users to facilities and regulators who control primary emissions. We present a new spatially explicit carbon footprint method for establishing such connections. We find that for most developed countries the carbon footprint has diluted and spread: for example, since 1970 the US carbon footprint has grown 23% territorially, and 38% in consumption-based terms, but nearly 200% in spatial extent (i.e. the minimum area needed to contain 90% of emissions). The rapidly growing carbon footprints of China and India, however, do not show such a spatial expansion of their consumption footprints in spite of their increasing participation in the world economy. In their case, urbanization concentrates domestic pollution and this offsets the increasing importance of imports.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Developed country, Natural gas, Greenhouse gas, Ecological footprint, Footprint, Carbon footprint, Administrative division


To examine the environmental life cycle from poppy farming through to production of 100 mg in 100 mL of intravenous morphine (standard infusion bag).

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Sustainability, Opium, Opium poppy, Carbon footprint, Poppy seed, Poppy straw


Neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets offer the strongest magnetic field per unit volume, and thus, are widely used in clean energy applications such as electric vehicle motors. However, rare earth elements (REEs), which are the key materials for creating NdFeB magnets, have been subject to significant supply uncertainty in the past decade. NdFeB magnet-to-magnet recycling has recently emerged as a promising strategy to mitigate this supply risk. This paper assesses the environmental footprint of NdFeB magnet-to-magnet recycling by directly measuring the environmental inputs and outputs from relevant industries and compares the results with production from ‘virgin’ materials, using life cycle assessments. It was found that magnet-to-magnet recycling lowers environmental impacts by 64-96%, depending on the specific impact categories under investigation. With magnet-to-magnet recycling, key processes that contribute 77-95% of the total impacts were identified to be 1) hydrogen mixing & milling (13-52%), 2) sintering & annealing (6-24%), and 3) electroplating (6-75%). The inputs from industrial sphere that play key roles in creating these impacts were electricity (24-93% of the total impact) and nickel (5-75%) for coating. Therefore, alternative energy sources such as wind and hydroelectric power are suggested to further reduce the overall environmental footprint of NdFeB magnet-to-magnet recycling.

Concepts: Sustainability, Recycling, Life cycle assessment, Alternative energy, Design for X, Rare-earth magnet, Design for Environment, Carbon footprint


The existing index systems on sustainable evaluation are mostly based on a multi index comprehensive evaluation method. The main disadvantage of this approach is that the selection and assignment of evaluation indexes are greatly influenced by subjective factors, which can result in poor comparability of results. By contrast, the Footprint Family (including ecological footprint, carbon footprint, and water footprint) is not affected by subjective factors. The Footprint Family also covers the basic tenets of sustainable development. This paper proposes use of a sustainable development evaluation index system based on the principle of the Footprint Family, and including the ecological pressure index (EPI), the ecological occupancy index (EOI), the ecological economic coordination index (EECI), the GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emission index (CEI), the water resources stress index (WSI), and the sustainable development index (SDI). Furthermore, a standard for grading the evaluated results based on global benchmarks is formulated. The results of an empirical study in China were the following. The development situation deteriorated from 1990 to 2015. The results showed that the SDI decreased from a medium level (grade 5) to a lower-medium level (grade 4). The results of this empirical study also showed that the method of evaluation can avoid the influence of subjective factors and can be used in the evaluation of sustainable development for various temporal and spatial conditions.

Concepts: Economics, Sustainability, Greenhouse gas, Ecological economics, Sustainable development, Ecological footprint, Water footprint, Carbon footprint


This study focuses on the assessment of the environmental profile of a milk farm, representative of the dairy sector in Northeast Spain, from a cradle-to-gate perspective. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) principles established by ISO standards together with the carbon footprint guidelines proposed by International Dairy Federation (IDF) were followed. The environmental results showed two critical contributing factors: the production of the livestock feed (e.g., alfalfa) and the on-farm emissions from farming activities, with contributions higher than 50% in most impact categories. A comparison with other LCA studies was carried out, which confirmed the consistency of these results with the values reported in the literature for dairy systems from several countries. Additionally, the Water Footprint (WF) values were also estimated according to the Water Footprint Network (WFN) methodology to reveal that feed and fodder production also had a predominant influence on the global WF impacts, with contributions of 99%. Green WF was responsible for remarkable environmental burdens (around 88%) due to the impacts associated with the cultivation stage. Finally, the substitution of alfalfa by other alternative protein sources in animal diets were also proposed and analysed due to its relevance as one of the main contributors of livestock feed.

Concepts: Agriculture, Milk, Cattle, Sustainability, Ecological footprint, Life cycle assessment, Industrial ecology, Carbon footprint


The suitability evaluation of any industrial process should rely on economic, technical, social and, in particular, environmental aspects. The Commission Recommendation 2013/179/UE enables the improvement and the harmonization of the conventional evaluation of environmental footprints, such as LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), Carbon and Water Footprint, by suggesting the assessment of life cycle environmental performance of products and organisations (PEF, OEF). Novelty aspects reside in including new impact categories (namely, human toxicity cancer effects, human toxicity not-cancer effects and eco-toxicity). This paper presents an application of PEF/OEF protocol to the example case of an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant. Strengths and criticisms of this approach are discussed, by taking into consideration the possible final goal of the suitability assessment. Valuably, the adoption of bioassays (i.e., the input of their results in the models for calculating the life cycle environmental performance) for a more reliable evaluation of the impact on the ecosystem and human health is proposed.

Concepts: Life, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Personal life, Activated sludge, Ecological footprint, Life cycle assessment, Carbon footprint


In this study, the carbon footprint of introducing a food waste disposer (FWD) policy was examined in the context of its implications on solid waste and wastewater management with economic assessment of environmental externalities emphasizing potential carbon credit and increased sludge generation. For this purpose, a model adopting a life cycle inventory approach was developed to integrate solid waste and wastewater management processes under a single framework and test scenarios for a waste with high organic food content typical of developing economies. For such a waste composition, the results show that a FWD policy can reduce emissions by nearly ∼42% depending on market penetration, fraction of food waste ground, as well as solid waste and wastewater management schemes, including potential energy recovery. In comparison to baseline, equivalent economic gains can reach ∼28% when environmental externalities including sludge management and emissions variations are considered. The sensitivity analyses on processes with a wide range in costs showed an equivalent economic impact thus emphasizing the viability of a FWD policy although the variation in the cost of sludge management exhibited a significant impact on savings.

Concepts: Energy, Atom, Economics, Recycling, Waste, Life cycle assessment, Garbage disposal, Carbon footprint


Energy neutrality and reduction of carbon emissions are significant challenges to the enhanced sustainability of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Harvesting energy from wastewater carbonaceous substrates can offset energy demands and enable net power generation; yet, there is limited research about how carbonaceous substrates influence energy and carbon implications of WWTPs with integrated energy recovery at systems-level. Consequently, this research uses biokinetics modelling and life cycle assessment philology to explore this notion, by tracing and assessing the quantitative flows of energy embodied or captured, and by exploring the carbon footprint throughout an energy-intensive activated sludge process with integrated energy recovery facilities. The results indicate that energy use and carbon footprint per cubic meter of wastewater treated, varies markedly with the carbon substrate. Compared with systems driven with proteins, carbohydrates or other short-chain fatty acids, systems fed with acetic acid realized energy neutrality with maximal net gain of power from methane combustion (0.198 kWh) and incineration of residual biosolids (0.153 kWh); and also achieved a negative carbon footprint (72.6 g CO2). The findings from this work help us to better understand and develop new technical schemes for improving the energy efficiency of WWTPs by repurposing the stream of carbon substrates across systems.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Sewage treatment, Carbon monoxide, Methane, Activated sludge, Life cycle assessment, Carbon footprint


Carbon footprint (CF) is nowadays one of the most widely used environmental indicators. The scope of the CF assessment could be corporate (when all production processes of a company are evaluated, together with upstream and downstream processes following a life cycle approach) or product (when one of the products is evaluated throughout its life cycle). Our hypothesis was that usually product CF studies (PCF) collect corporate data, because it is easier for companies to obtain them than product data. Six main methodological issues to take into account when collecting corporate data to be used for PCF studies were postulated and discussed in the present paper: fugitive emissions, credits from waste recycling, use of “equivalent factors”, reference flow definition, accumulation and allocation of corporate values to minor products. A big project with 18 wineries, being wine one of the most important agri-food products assessed through CF methodologies, was used to study and to exemplify these 6 methodological issues. One of the main conclusions was that indeed, it is possible to collect corporate inventory data in a per year basis to perform a PCF, but having in mind the 6 methodological issues described here. In the literature, most of the papers are presenting their results as a PCF, while they collected company data and obtained, in fact, a “key performance indicator” (ie., CO2eq emissions per unit of product produced), which is then used as a product environmental impact figure. The methodology discussed in this paper for the wine case study is widely applicable to any other product or industrial activity.

Concepts: Present, Scientific method, Case study, Methodology, Recycling, Indicator, Life cycle assessment, Carbon footprint