Embodied Energy

By   June 6, 2010

Embodied energy is the amount of energy that goes into a product during its entire life-cycle. It includes the energy required to mine and refine materials, assemble these into the final product, transport it to the consumer, and dispose of it. An analysis that considers this entire process is called a life-cycle analysis.

A 1-litre plastic (PET) bottle has an embodied energy of roughly 5.4 MJ. This is the same as leaving a 15 W lightbulb on for 100 hours (1 kilowatt-hour is 3.6 MJ, a 15 W CFL lightbulb gives light equivalent to a 75 W incandescent light bulb). Aluminium cans are about 1.7x worse than plastic bottles in this respect.

Recycling changes the picture a little. Recycled PET has an embodied energy about 20-25% lower than virgin PET. Other types of plastic can achieve reductions in embodied energy of up to 50% by recycling.

While recycling can reduce the impact of disposables (and keeps the plastic out of landfills and nature), the impact of recycled materials is still huge. Avoid disposables whenever possible!

Source: The ImpEE Project, The University of Cambridge, Recycling Plastic

One Comment on “Embodied Energy

  1. ged

    I did my thessi in this exact thing for Architecture.
    I wrote softwrae to calculate it from a CAD model or a building and a database of energy co-efficients for the Australian Government about 15 years ago.

    Also the TSP you did is nice. It would be much more useful in real life if it also took into account a Calendar in Gcal.
    This would then allow a salesmen clients to be given an option for times for the salesman to visit that worked with the routes being calculated and changed.

    The idea is that then clients could just go to a calender and choose times but the time opening are determined in real time based on where the travelling sales man currently and where they will be.

    This Use case is the problem domain most sales reps face these days, because they dont have time to ring their many clients to book times. Its far better is a public calender is available to them with defined slots that are driven by the TSP logic behind it.

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