Our lifestyle and economic growth are currently involved with high environmental impacts and a large need for primary resources. According to ISO 14001 related to ‘environmental system management’, an environmental impact can be described as a change in the environment, negative or positive, resulting partly or totally from human activities, products or services (i.e. an anthropogenic cause). In this lecture, two distinct categories of environmental impacts are considered: on the one hand, environmental impacts due to chemical/physical emissions from the technosphere to the ecosphere; on the other hand, environmental impacts that come from resource extraction, deprivation or depletion.
Hence, the present lecture aims to present the main environmental impacts considered in environmental evaluations of products, activities or services. For each one, the environmental problem is first described. Then, the underlying environmental mechanisms and fundamental modelling principles are explained. Finally, the main anthropogenic sources causing the problem are highlighted.
This lecture covers nine of the most common environmental impacts: Climate change / Ozone depletion / Photochemical ozone (smog) / Aquatic eutrophication / Acidification / Human toxicity / Eco-toxicity / Resource depletion and Land use. This is a first didactic step allowing to further undertake the measure of these impacts using quantitative assessment methodologies (e.g. Life Cycle Assessment) and then minimise them via eco-design practices.
After attending this lecture, the learner should be able to differentiate and describe each of the main environmental aspects considered in life cycle impact assessment methodologies. They should be able:
- To identify the environmental aspects caused by a given human activity
- To link these aspects to potential environmental impacts used in life cycle impact assessment methodologies
- To understand the environmental mechanisms leading to a particular impact and its fundamental modelling principles
- To determine the main anthropogenic sources causing the targeted environmental impact