The Instructions for Implementing Executive Order 13693 are "agencies shall consider full life-cycle costs and savings in planning and implementing projects and making cost-effectiveness determinations about investments in capital assets and services. Where projects have net benefits, agencies shall consider maintaining or expanding those projects while agencies shall consider reassessing, altering, or discontinuing unsuccessful or under-performing projects. In some cases, evaluation of life-cycle costs may result in a higher up-front cost with significantly lower maintenance costs, or longer life."
The U.S. Department of Energy considers the entire life cycle of a product when deciding which product to purchase. The product's price is only one part of what the product will truly cost your organization. The cost of staff health while using or working near the product, waste disposal costs, etc.--all need to be calculated into the actual price a product will cost.
A life cycle analyses consists of evaluating a broad spectrum of environmental attributes--the attributes of the product, manufacturing process, and manufacturer themselves. Selecting the most relevant attributes is dependent upon the commodity or service being purchased, local environmental priorities, and the availability of reliable information in addition to the traditional CAP (cost, availability, performance) factors. Generally, however, the environmental attributes to be considered can be divided into the five Rs as introduced in the table below.
Environmental Attributes to Consider When Purchasing
Example in Product
Example in Manufacturer's Process
||Contains biobased and recycled content, remembering oil is a finite (not renewable) commodity
||Uses renewable energy, such as hydropower, solar, wind|
||Is energy and water efficient
||Uses environmental transportation system, such as rail for bringing in resources and shipping product|
||Contains low-to-no persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOC)
||Has no greenhouse gas emission or hazardous by products or... |
||Is durable, repairable, upgradeable
||Has recirculating cooling systems that continually filter and reuse water|
|Resistant to waste:
||Has low-to-no packaging with returnable containers or, as a minimum, packaging and product are recyclable and biodegradable
||Has closed loop manufacturing process, credible Environmental Management System, responsible reporting|
When selecting a product, look at the materials it is made from. Are they from a resource that grows quickly (such as kenaf) or slowly (trees) or is finite with only a specific quantity available on earth (oil)? Does the product (its manufacture and use) use a lot or a little energy and water? Is the product conducive to the health of those who make it and use it? When the products breaks, can it be repaired? When it is no longer needed, might someone else use it or can it at least be recycled into another product?
To help determine which environmental attributes are relevant for a given purchase, develop a decision-making matrix such as the one below. Use the matrix to identify the product that meets your organization's needs, has the most environmental and health attributes, and is the most cost efficient when all (life cycle) costs are considered.
Example of a Decision Making Matrix/Life Cycle Cost Analysis