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Measuring the use of natural resources and its impacts

Swiss Academies | 
Measuring the use of natural resources and its impacts

Indicators and their application.

Natural resources such as materials, water, land area and energy are essential for all life – and they are finite. Humans are also dependent upon them for their individual metabolism and for their economic activities.

In this brochure selected indicators for measuring and quantifying the use of resources and their effects are presented. The brochure describes indicators relating to the resource categories materials, land area, energy and water, and examines these using as an example four metals which play an important role in the manufacture of high tech products (see table): copper (Cu), platinum (Pt), lithium (Li) and neodymium (Nd). A decisive factor in the calculations for the respective indicators is that they include all the material and energy flows throughout the life cycle of a product or service. For the metals examined in this brochure, all material and energy flows occurring from the extraction of the raw material to the marketable metal are taken into account. The necessary data are taken from the data base ecoinvent (2010), developed specifically for calculating life cycle assessments.