Historical perspective

Information Society and Sustainable Consumption
Eric Williams United Nations University
1st International Workshop: Life cycle approaches to Sustainable Consumption 19-20 March 2003 Tokyo, Japan

The combustion engine and electricity not only shaped economy and society, but also defined the environmental challenges facing the modern world.

Project on IT and environment

The Information Technology revolution should also profound implications for environmental issues

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Started in 2001 Consortium: UNU, Tokyo University of Science, InterRisk Research & Consulting Inc., Carnegie Mellon, UC – Berkeley Funding: Japan Foundation - Center for Global Partnership Activities: research, dissemination (symposia, multimedia website)

The United Nations University (UNU)
• Think-tank for the UN system (not degree granting university) UNU Centre in Tokyo Network of Research and Training centers around the world. Overall topics:
– – Environment and Sustainable Development Peace and Governance

How does IT affect environmental issues?
1. Impacts of a new sector: production, use and disposal of IT hardware 2. Driver of Eco-efficiency (efficient products/services, management, dematerialization, enhanced R&D) 3. Driver of economic growth (effective income increases)

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Review of selected results
1. LCA of microchip 2. End-of-life management of computers: resell, upgrade, recycle 3. Macro-energy savings from telecommuting

The Macro microchip
Context: IT hardware production has grown explosively in recent decades, e.g. average annual growth of global semiconductor industry is 16% per year What are the environmental implications of this new industry? High-tech is often perceived to be low impact. Life cycle assessment of energy, chemicals and water use in production of a 32MB DRAM chip.


From quartz to wafers
Stage Quartz + carbon •¨ silicon Silicon •¨ trichlorosilane Trichlorosilane •¨ polysilicon Polysilicon •¨ single crystal ingot Single crystal ingot •¨ silicon wafer Process chain to produce wafer Elect energy input/kg silicon 13 kWh 50 kWh 250 kWh 250 kWh 240 kWh 2,130 kWh Silicon Yield 90% 90% 42% 50% 56% 9.5% Data sources


Harben, 99; Dosaj, 97 Jackson, 96 Takegoshi, 94; O’Mara et al, 90 Tsuo et.al, 98; O’Mara, 90;Takegoshi, 94 Takegoshi, 94 Takegoshi, 94; Lammers and Hara, 96

Production of silicon wafers requires around 160 times The energy required for “industrial” grade silicon

Fossil fuel, chemical, and water use


Entropy and energy use


For 1 memory chip, lower bounds are: • Fossil fuels consumed in production = 1,200 grams • Fossil fuels consumed in use = 440 grams • Chemicals “destructively” consumed = 72 grams • Water use is 36,000 grams per chip. Total fossil fuel and chemical use to produce 2 gram memory chip ≥ 1.7 kg

Chip manufacture is extremely energy and chemicals intensive. Fossil fuels to make one chip is 600 times the weight of the chip. For automobile, figure is 1~2, aluminum can 4-5. Why? Chip is extremely organized both at microscopic and mesoscopic scales. Reduction of entropy requires energy.

End-of-life computers: Resell, Upgrade, Recycle
Rapid growth and rate of obsolescence gives rise to problem of what to do with end-of-life electronics. Various national and regional legislation: e.g. WEEE in EU, recycling law in Japan
Evaluate waste management wisdom (3R’s) for computers: • Resell – used computer to secondary users • Upgrade – replace processor, memory, hard disc • Recycle – disassemble computer, recover materials (metals, glass, plastic)


End-of-life computers: Resell, Upgrade, Recycle
Energy use in different phases of life cycle of desktop computer (home user)
Life cycle stage Production Use (2 year 1st lifespan) Use (3 year 1st lifespan) 2nd lifespan Upgrade (energy to make processor, memory, hard disc) Recycle EU‚• 1750 MJ ER -280 MJ (theoretical limit. -1360 MJ) Notation EM EUse EUse Value 5600 MJ 910 MJ 1360 MJ 1-2 years


LCE = E M − r1 E M − r 2 (E M − E Up ) + E use + E L − r 3 (E L − E R )


• Telecommuting decreases energy use in transport and commercial building sectors, increases residential consumption. • In Japan, 4-day telecommuting for mobile sales, service and specialty workers could save 1.0% of national energy use (source: Williams 03).


Life cycle e ne rgy sav ings from 10% imple me ntation
10.0% 8.0% 6.0% 4.0% 2.0% 0.0% Res ell Upgrade Recycle

Case: desktop computer, home use, base case
Source: Williams and Sasaki (2003)

Other results
1. Energy of Sales/distribution for Ecommerce for books (Matthews and Hendrickson (US); Williams and Tagami (Japan)) 2. Energy consumption of wireless vs. wired networks (Matthews et. al) 3. Analysis of effects of IT investments on economic structure and energy use (Mori and Yoda)

Growth and the environment
• If technology keeps getting so much better, why do global greenhouse emissions continue to rise? • Growth (income, population) continues to be faster than efficiency improvements: the consumption problem

Income and embodied energy of consumption
Estimates of total energy from combining economic input-output analysis and consumption expenditure surveys (US, 97 IO tables)
Total energy - Income
900000 800000 700000

IT and sustainable consumption
1. Shifts in transport and building energy use due to adoption of digital lifestyles 2. Effects of knowledge goods on the embodied energy of a typical basket of consumer products 3. Consumption rebound effects driven by IT-stimulated economic growth/price reductions

Total energy (MJ)

600000 500000 400000 300000 200000 100000 0 US$0

y = 5.4313x + 231644 2 R = 0.9597







Income ($)

IT, consumption and economic growth
• IT contributes to growth both directly (IT sectors) and indirectly (application of IT) • For US in late 90’s,IT hardware, software, services accounted to 33% of growth. • 10$ increase in income implies 10 kg additional fossil fuel consumption.


Preliminary result: Rebound Effect and e-commerce
• • E-commerce vendors can often offer lower prices (less overhead) Books are on average $1.35 cheaper on the Internet (in the US), thus ecommerce purchase of one book induces 7.3 MJ of embodied energy use. Total energy for sales/distribution of books in Japan is around 5-6 MJ/book Price rebound effect is significant.


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Conclusion: Social response

Thank you!
More information: www.it-environment.org

Analysis must eventually lead to practical recommendations for gov. policy, firm strategies, civil action Various possible mechanisms:
– – – – Consumption taxes (how big?) Rationing (e.g. emission permits) Incentives to implement telework, etc. R&D support for dematerialization technologies (e.g. e-paper)

Evolving consumer expenditures in Japan
Estimates of total energy from combining economic input-output analysis and consumption expenditure surveys (US, 97 tables)


10% Eating out Utilities Furnishings Clothes Health, insurance Transport Education Enablers Light goods Entertainment Reading Services Other

Share of income spent