We don’t need a life cycle assessment network in Germany. I’ve heard this statement or similar ones quite often from long-established colleagues. But it’s wrong, because these colleagues have already built-up their network. They don’t need life cycle assessment networks anymore, because they established their analogous, organically grown networks over years or decades. Today, it is much more difficult to built your own network for several reasons.
First of all, life cycle assessment (LCA, in German also Ökobilanz) has become increasingly important over the last couple of years. Due to the growing political importance of sustainability, and it’s ecological aspects in particular, this trend will most likely continue. Therefore, the community working in this field of research is growing continuously. However, this growth is not only affecting research institutions working primarily on LCA. More and more companies, institutes and research facilities employ LCA as an evaluation tool for their research and development. In general, such institutions have relatively few staff working on LCA, in some extreme cases the assessments are performed by student workers. As these institutions focus on the application of LCA, their LCA-practitioners are usually not participating in the research on LCA itself. These practitioners, especially the young ones, are hardly visiting any conferences. This development leads to a fragmentation of LCA research. An open network for everyone can help to prevent such fragmentation. In my opinion especially young researchers should be the driving force for creating such a network. They are the ones who need it the most and profit the most from it.
Which networks do exist already?
The LCAforum, which has been established in Switzerland hosts international discussion meetings on different aspects of LCA on a regular basis. We should consider the LCAforum as a role model for our network. The international email discussion list of PRé Consultants can also be considered an important network. It’s where the international LCA-community, from LCA-beginners to the world’s leading LCA-experts, is having its daily discussions. UNEP and SETAC have established the Life Cycle Initiative, which already has an European branch. Another established networking event in German-speaking countries is the Ökobilanzwerkstatt, in which young LCA-researchers come together to present and discuss about their recent research. Additionally, a multitude of LCA-groups can be found on LinkedIn. Why would we still need a network in Germany, in the light of this strong international networking activities?
Well, because any of the mentioned networks do have disadvantages, besides their various benefits. It’s this challenge that we want to tackle with our network: Visiting a LCAforum conference at least requires a travel to Switzerland; in order to write to the PRé email list you need to have the courage to send a potentially stupid question to the total, global LCA-community; SETAC-conferences usually require long travel and have considerably high conference fees; Ökobilanzwerkstatt is strongly focusing on the participant’s presentation and certain leading topics, and not discussing basic methodological questions. So, what can a new network offer to tackle these issues?
In the “1st young LCA researcher workshop Karlsruhe” in February 2015, we tested a new – well at least new to us – format: A local meeting for young LCA-practitioners of a relatively small region focusing on learning and the cooperative acquisition of knowledge. Creating a network was our secondary goal. In the workshop the following requirements were defined:
- Find peers and partners
- Enable discussion and exchange of experience
- Stay up to date
- Broaden perspectives
The network we are building up here should meet these requirements. It consists of two parts: Firstly, an internet platform, that enables continuous communication, e.g. in forums, offers a contact point for young researchers and publishes news on LCA. Secondly, regular, local meetings like the “1st young LCA researcher workshop Karlsruhe”. We would be happy if someone is interested to establish other local meetings in different parts of Germany.
Make life cycle assessment visible in public
Another requirement defined in our 1st workshop was to make LCA more visible in the German public. The open areas of our network can contribute to this request. It allows us to publicly present people and institutions that are working on LCA. Also, a public LCA-wiki is possible in the future. This platform offers a multitude of possibilities. We just need to make use of them.
We do need a LCA-network in Germany and LCAnet is the place where we try to establish one. In order to achieve our goal, we need your help! No matter if you are interested to participate in the platform’s design, to host a local meeting , or just want to be part of the network: Get in contact with us: firstname.lastname@example.org