Join us tomorrow, September 19 at noon Central time, when Dr. Callie Babbitt of the Rochester Institute of Technology presents “Adapting Ecological Models for Linking Sustainable Production and Consumption Dynamic in Consumer Electronic Product Systems.” Registration for the webinar is available at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/541176247.
Abstract: The growing integration of consumer electronics in daily modern society poses a myriad of sustainability challenges. On one hand, consumer electronic devices contribute to social and economic development and may be key to reducing energy consumption across many sectors of the economy. However, the toxic and valuable materials embedded within the products may cause both positive economic and social benefits (e.g., recovery of valuable materials and jobs) and negative environmental and human health impacts (e.g., related to informal recycling and disposal operations). While the production and operation of individual devices is becoming more energy efficient, rebound effects from the overall increasing number of products owned may be increasing rather than decreasing environmental impacts. Conventional sustainable production practices and policies based on product-based analyses are unable to effectively capture energy, material, and economic flows because consumers purchase, use, and discard a group of electronics such as desktops, laptops, printers, mobile phones, and digital cameras. Therefore, the consumer electronic product system’s net sustainability impact is unclear and in need of tools to help decision makers and consumers with sustainable production, purchasing decisions, and end of life management.
Research getting underway at RIT is aimed at developing a better understanding of the linkage between production and consumption dynamics of group of rapidly evolving electronic products in order to manage them more effectively. To this end, we are building a new research framework adapted from models of community and population ecology and operationalized for test cases in household consumer electronics. This presentation will provide an overview of this research framework and present initial results that characterize how the structure of a “community” of household electronics changes over time and what that change means for environmental metrics like life cycle energy demand.
The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR), and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) are hosting a series of seminars this fall focused on sustainable electronics research and issues. See the ISTC Blog for future dates and speakers in this seminar series.