Did you know that the best way to reduce the carbon footprint of a product is actually by modifying the software running on the device? It surprised us here at Synapse to learn that software plays such a big role — and it also surprised our clients who came to us to help them understand their product’s carbon footprint.
The focus on sustainable design is more and more important as consumers demand more environmentally friendly products. To understand a product’s carbon footprint, we perform a Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, that maps out what stages of a product’s lifespan cycle generate the most CO2 emissions. Watch the video below to learn more.
It may surprise you how much a product’s carbon footprint is affected by the power that it consumes. It certainly surprised a number of companies who came to us to help them understand the carbon footprint of their products. And we learned a number of interesting things while doing so. We wanted to share some of those results with you here.
The biggest driver of a product’s carbon footprint more often than not in consumer electronics is the power consumption of that device while it’s in use. It may not be totally intuitive that a product’s power consumption affects its carbon footprint, especially with renewable energy sources becoming more and more common.
The fact remains, however, that according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration more than 80% of household energy is derived from burning fossil fuels. Even in areas where the local energy needs are met using renewable energy sources, the excess energy is transferred to neighboring municipalities who do meet their energy needs using fossil fuels. And with that in mind, it’s important for a product to reduce its power consumption no matter where the local energy is coming from.
So, what are the things companies can do to lower the power consumption in the products that they design?
In many cases, it’s the sleep states controlled by software that are the biggest offenders in power consumption. Some devices have inefficient sleep states, such as a TV that draws more power than it needs to while waiting for a signal from the remote to turn on. Another case we’ve seen is with some lab equipment that doesn’t fully utilize sleep states because of a lengthy boot-up process that is really inconvenient to the user.
Another example that we’ve seen is with a coffee maker that keeps the warming plate on for a fixed duration. Alternatively, it could use load cells to sense the weight of the coffee pot and turn off the warming function once it determines that the coffee pot is empty.
As consumers demand more and more environmentally friendly products, and companies pledge to meet carbon reduction goals, it’s becoming more and more important to understand how a product affects the environment. At Synapse, we recommend a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment to fully understand the carbon footprint of a product. Understanding the problem is essential before a solution can be implemented. But with the right information, we can start making the changes that are needed to save our planet.