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Life cycle environmental impact of the Internet infrastructure in a university

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3 Author(s)
Loerincik, Y. ; Group for Ind. Ecology & Life Cycle Syst., Swiss Inst. of Technol., Lausanne, Switzerland ; Sangwon Suh ; Jolliet, O.

Information and communication technologies (ICTS) are rapidly developing and will shape our future society. In understanding the shape of the future information era, it is also important to identify the environmental aspects of ICTs. However, life cycle assessment (LCA), a systematic evaluation tool for products and services, often lacks ability to capture services inputs and capitals, which is crucial in ICTs. In this study we employed input-output analysis besides traditional process LCA to overcome this problem and to identify environmental impacts of Internet infrastructure within the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). This study aims at detailing the Internet infrastructure and evaluates the environmental impact of its various components. The methodology developed starts with a first screening performed with an Input-Output LCA software (MIET). This has been done starting from the detailed expenditures allocated to the Internet infrastructure within the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland Data from other LCA studies and databases were then included using an hybrid approach. It permits better evaluation of environmental impacts of complex systems. In particular it enables to assess overhead services and infrastructure, which have received less attention in traditional LCAs. The results of the first screening show that the electricity and the manufacturing of personal computers are dominating. But other contributions like maintenance, paper, management and computational services in case of computer breakdown have significant impacts, showing that an environmental friendly computer is also a reliable one. The inclusion of process data on electricity consumption, computer manufacturing, computational services and particular characteristics of the Institute's energy consumption were then combined in a process technology matrix. The results change significantly showing that the first screening of the methodology is useful to point out what should be more detailed but gives results that should be interpret with grate care.

Published in:

Electronics and the Environment, 2003. IEEE International Symposium on

Date of Conference:

19-22 May 2003

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