Webinar: Adapting Ecological Models for Linking Sustainable Production & Consumption Dynamics in Consumer Electronic Product Systems

All seminars are from noon to 1 p.m. in the Stephen J. Warner Conference Room at ISTC, One E. Hazelwood Drive, Champaign. Please feel free to bring a lunch. The seminars will be broadcast live and will also be archived on the ISTC website at www.istc.illinois.edu.

Webinar information

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CDT
Register at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/541176247

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 & economic development & may be key to reducing energy consumption across many sectors of the economy.  However, the toxic & valuable materials embedded within the products may cause both positive economic & social benefits (e.g., recovery of valuable materials and jobs) & negative environmental & human health impacts (e.g., related to informal recycling & disposal operations).  While the production & 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 & policies based on product-based analyses are unable to effectively capture energy, material, & economic flows because consumers purchase, use, & discard a group of electronics such as desktops, laptops, printers, mobile phones, & digital cameras. Therefore, the consumer electronic product system’s net sustainability impact is unclear & in need of tools to help decision makers & consumers with sustainable production, purchasing decisions, & 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.

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