European Industrial Doctoral candidates are improving reliability of product footprints
This December sees the conclusion of the RELIEF project (Reliability of Environmental Footprints) financed by the Horizon 2020 Programme. The project was realised within the framework of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) are one part of MSCA aiming to support competitively-selected doctoral programmes implemented by partnerships between European universities, research institutions and non-academic organisations. Doctoral candidates are required to spend a substantial amount of their time seconded to institutions outside of their home university and at least half needs to be in non-academic organisations. The program emphasises learning and exchange of knowledge across national boundaries, disciplines and sectors (private and academia). Over the last three years, five PhD candidates worked under the joint supervision of Radboud University Nijmegen and Unilever R&D on methodologies for improving the reliability of environmental footprinting. Each early stage researcher (ESR) worked on a different aspect of footprinting. ESR 1 focused on energy, analysing the variability in energy use and greenhouse gas impacts of out-of-home ice cream sales cabinets, showering and laundry , , using various public and confidential consumer habits and consumer survey data. He also investigated the environmental impacts of e-commerce, focussing on the ‘final mile’ delivery stage. ESR 2 worked on improving water footprint impact assessment. He developed a high-resolution global streamflow model that can be linked to the impacts on aquatic biodiversity. ESR 3 focused on chemical footprints. She looked at how the variability in product formulations and types of wastewater treatment processes translates to uncertainty and variability of ecotoxicological footprints,. ESR 4 studied land footprints, analysing a large dataset from Unilever’s Sustainable Sourcing programme. She also looked at land use change impacts of palm oil sourced from Indonesia, revealing large spatial variability of impacts due to the presence of peatlands and landscape fragmentation. ESR 5 focused on macro-scale footprints, using environmentally extended multi regional input output models to quantify and compare the biodiversity footprints of nations. Research developed in the RELIEF project will help organisations measure their environmental footprints in a more robust and accurate manner. For more details please visit the RELIEF website https://www.relief-project.eu/ .
 Quantifying drivers of variability in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of consumer products—a case study on laundry washing in Europe. (2017), International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.
 Consumer Behaviour and the Environmental Footprints of Showering. SETAC LCA Case Study Symposium 2018, Vienna, Austria, September 24-26, 2018
 FLO1K, global maps of mean, maximum and minimum annual streamflow at 1 km resolution from 1960 through 2015. (2018), Nature Scientific Data
 Estimation of chemical emissions from down-the-drain consumer products using consumer survey data at a country and wastewater treatment plant level (2018), Chemosphere.
 Quantifying variability in removal efficiencies of chemicals in activated sludge wastewater treatment plants – a meta-analytical approach (2018), Environmental Science Processes and Impacts.
 Global variability of Greenhouse Gas Footprints of Crops Grown for Processing: Intercrop, Interyear and Intercountry Assessment, LCA Food 2018, Bangkok, Thailand, October 17-19, 2018
 Spatial variability in Greenhouse Gas Footprints of Palm Oil Production in Indonesia, LCA Food 2018, Bangkok, Thailand, October 17-19, 2018
 Terrestrial Biodiversity Footprints of Nations – A Multi-Regional Input-Output Model to Trace Biodiversity Impacts Along Global Supply Chains; 20th Annual Conference on Global Economic Analysis, West Lafayette, USA, June 6-9, 2017