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Achieving Sustainability through Life Cycle Assessment and Management
Dr. Mary Ann Curran is keynote speaker for our Thursday, November 15 VLS meeting at 9:00 PM US EST. Her keynote addresss is "Achieving Sustainability through Life Cycle Assessment and Management". Mary Ann is an internationally-recognized expert in Life Cycle Assessment. She is retiring from the US Environmental Protection Agency on November 3 and is going into private practice.
Sustainability is, of course, not a recent concept, but our understanding of what it means and what we need to do to meet the challenge it presents continues to grow. Throughout the ages, nations have had to address the issue of harmony between the environment, society and the economy. At a simple definition, sustainability focuses on maintaining, or improving, the quality of life (environmental, economic, and social) for everyone without causing irreparable damage to the earth (as well its inhabitants). As society continues to become more complex and global, sustainability requires us to look broadly at our actions, as well as our inactions. We must find innovative ways to change institutional structures and influence individual behavior on the global level. Sustainability crosses all business and economic sectors and all areas of human activity. Decisions about environmental, economic, and technical improvement must be evaluated against the overall, system-wide performance of a product, process or activity. Such a life cycle perspective enables decision makers to identify potential tradeoffs between raw material extraction, manufacturing, product use and reuse, and end-of-life operations. Much activity has been conducted recently toward the development of practical and useful life cycle based tools. In addition to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology itself, approaches for Life Cycle Costing, Life Cycle Design, and Life Cycle Management continue to be developed. Resource and waste management also demand the broader analysis that a life cycle tool offers in order to maximize benefits. This presentation covers brief definitions of the various life-cycle based approaches, summarizes the current state-of-the-practice of each, and explores how the holistic nature of such cradle-to-grave, life cycle approaches provides an essential basis for moving toward sustainability.
Bio: Dr. Mary Ann Curran (former US EPA) is an internationally-recognized expert in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Upon receiving a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati in 1980, Dr. Curran began working for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. After working in waste management research for several years, her research turned to industrial pollution prevention. In 1989, this work introduced her to a new environmental management approach, LCA. Through years of research, networking, and publishing, she developed an in-depth knowledge of the field and created an extensive network of LCA researchers and practitioners world-wide. Steadily working toward building awareness both within and outside the Agency regarding the important implications that LCA has regarding the protection of human health and the environment, her activities have contributed to the Laboratory’s growing reputation as a leader in LCA research and development. Dr. Curran’s research activities have included the development of LCA methodology, the performance and review of life-cycle case studies, planning life-cycle workshops and conferences, and the development of a life cycle data and resources. She serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, and Management of Environmental Quality, and the on-line journal Sustainability. In addition to authoring numerous papers and book chapters, Dr. Curran was editor on the "LCA Handbook" published by Scrivener-Wiley in October 2012. She has presented EPA’s activities in LCA-related research at technical meetings across the US and in Europe, South America, South Africa, Asia, and Australia. After 32 years of federal service, Dr. Curran has entered into private practice as an LCA consultant (BAMAC, Ltd). Dr. Curran studied Environmental Management and Policy at Lund University, Lund, Sweden (MSc 1996); and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Erasmus University’s International PhD program on “Cleaner Products, Cleaner Production, Industrial Ecology and Sustainability” for her thesis entitled “Development of Life Cycle Methodology: A Focus on Co-Product Allocation” (2008). Dr. Curran is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).