life cycle

Have you ever considered where the products you use every day come from, or what happens to them when you finish using them?Do you know how each of the products you use impacts the environment? Just as living things are born, get older, and die,products also complete a life cycle.

Each stage of aproduct’s life cycle can affect the environment in different ways. Some products, such as cellphones, have many different components, each of which has its own life cycle in addition to the lifecycle of the composite product. The stages of aproduct’s life cycle usually include:
Design. A product’s design can influence each stage of its life cycle and in turn the environment. Design affects which materials will be used to manufacture a product. For example, cheaper materials are often less durable, which means the product will have a short useful life. Product design can also prevent waste in many ways. Products can be designed with modular components that can be easily replaced so that the entire product does not have to be thrown away if only one piece breaks. Items meant to last a long time can avoid trendy designs so they are not thrown away when they goout of style.

Materials Extraction. All products are made from materials found in or on the earth. “Virgin”or “raw” materials, such as trees or ore, are directly mined or harvested from the earth, aprocess that can create pollution, use large amounts of energy, and deplete limited natural resources. Making new products from materials that have already been used (recycled materials) can reduce the amount of raw materials we need to take from the earth.

Materials Processing. Once materials are extracted, they must be converted into a form that can be used to make products. For example, paper is made from trees, but the wood hasto undergo several different processes before we can use it.

Manufacturing. Products are made in factories and require a great deal of energy to create.The manufacturing process can also produce pollution. Many products require the use of packaging as well, to prevent spoilage, damage,contamination, and tampering.

Packaging & Transportation. The use of packaging can protect products from damage and provide product information. However, packaging consumes valuable natural resources and when used excessively can be wasteful. Somepackaging can be made fromrecycled materials. Finished products are transported in trucks,planes, and trains to different locations where they are sold. All of these forms of transportation burn fossil fuels, which can contribute to global climate change.

Use. The way products are used can impact the environment. For example, products that are only used once create more waste than products that are used again and again.

Reuse/Recycling/Disposal. Using a product over and over again prevents the need to create the product from scratch, which saves resources and energy while also preventing pollution. Recycling or re-manufacturing products also reduces the amount of new materials that have to be extracted from the earth. Throwing aproduct away means that it will end up in a land-fill or incinerator and will not be useful again.