"Very few green products have been systematically assessed for how much good they actually do," says Gregory Norris. "First you have to do an LCA, and that's rare." Maybe thousands of products of any kind have gone through these rigorous impact evaluations, he adds, "but that's a tiny fraction—millions are sold. Plus, consumers don't realize how interconnected industrial processes are," let alone their myriad consequences.I have two comments:
"The bar is too low for green products," Norris concludes. Our current fixation on a single dimension of "green" ignores the multitude of adverse impacts that shadow even the most seemingly virtuous of items. As Life Cycle Assessment of just about anything shows, virtually everything manufactured is linked to at least trace quantities of environmental toxins of one kind or another, somewhere back in the vast recesses of the industrial supply chain. Everything made has innumerable consequences; to focus on one problem in isolation leaves all the other consequences unchanged.
As one industrial ecologist confided, "The term 'eco- friendly' should not ever be used. Anything manufactured is only relatively so."
This shadow side of industry has been overlooked in the value chain concept, which gauges how each step in a product's life, from extracting materials and manufacture through distribution, adds to its worth. But the notion of a value chain misses a crucial part of the equation: while it tracks the value added at each step of the way, it ignores the value subtracted by negative impacts. Seen through the lens of a product's Life Cycle Assessment, that same chain tracks a product's ecological negatives, quantifying its environmental and public health downsides at each link. This window on a company or product's negative ecological footprint might be called the "devalue chain."
- The folks who said reduce, reuse, recycle
- The "devalue chain" can be factored in to the price of a product (and its components) by adding the cost of negative externalities. Since prices are MUCH easier to reconcile, add and compare, "Green Pricing" would do away with the need to do (or understand) LCA for any product. Read Hayek to understand just how powerful prices are.