Washington: Researchers have developed a new software that can rapidly calculate the carbon footprints of thousands of products simultaneously.
Researchers from the Columbia University developed the new methodology which is expected to help accurate labelling of products, and to design ways to reduce their environmental impact.
Christoph Meinrenken and his team used a life-cycle-analysis database - a tool used to assess the environmental impact of a product.
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".
The software complies with guidelines sponsored by the nonprofit World Resources Institute, which provides standards against which carbon footprints can be audited, he claimed.
Currently, 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 specialised expertise.
"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," said Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy which collaborated with Pepsico on the project.
The study was published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
First Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012, 12:56