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The Open Sustainability Project: a Linked Data Approach to LCA

Leonardo Bonanni,   MIT Media Lab
Hannes Ebner,   KTH
Matthew Hockenberry,   MIT Media Lab
Bianca Sayan,   University of Waterloo
Jorge Zapico,   KTH
Nils Brandt,   MIT Media Lab
Chris Csikszentmihalyi,   MIT Media Lab
Hiroshi Ishii,   MIT Media Lab
Marko Turpeinen,   Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT
Steven Young,   University of Waterloo

The proprietary nature of LCA tools and information limits widespread adoption of sustainability measures. We introduce the Open Sustainability Project(OSP), a Linked Data resource for broadening access to LCA in an effort to increase the transparency and accuracy of environmental impact assessments(2, 9).

The OSP applies Free and Open Source Software(FOSS) principles and Linked Data structures to LCA standards and reporting so that communities including students, SME’s and the general public can participate in the assessment and verification of sustainability practices(1,6). The highly flexible data format allows disparate data sources and assessments to be compared along an open standard compliant with ISO 14048 reporting(5, 8, 12).

In addition, the OSP makes available a free database of Life Cycle Assessment data using an approach based on Linked Data and RESTful interfaces which supports the development of rich third-party applications for specific user groups and industries(7). This novel combination of linked data and web-based tools is inherently transparent so that LCA practices can be standardized, compared and verified by a broad community.

The OSP is an international collaboration between academics, government and industry groups leveraging expertise in LCA, Open Data and web-based tools for sustainability(10). Our first Open Source and Open Data web sustainability tools have confirmed the potential to engage a wider audience, with over two thousand registered users, three thousand environmental assessments performed and over 330,000 page views from more than 75 countries since September 2009(3, 4, 11). The OSP aims to expand reach of LCA through a free and open Application Programming Interface(API) to support distributed development of third-party applications for sustainability assessment through the emerging metrics for social and environmental sustainability(a free LCA "App Store"). These applications are intended to disseminate LCA standards, encourage transparency in environmental reporting and leverage Collective Intelligence in the collection, publication and verification of LCA.

The OSP aims to transform LCA into a collaborative process where data collection, analysis, assessment and reporting benefit from the feedback and ideas of a growing worldwide LCA community.

Citations:

  1. Anex, RP; Focht, W (2002) Public participation in life cycle assessment and risk assessment: A shared need. Risk Analysis. 22(5). 861-877.
  2. Berners-Lee, Tim. (2006). Linked Data - Design Issues. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html
  3. Bonanni, L., Hockenberry, M., Zwarg, D., Csikszentmihalyi, C., and Ishii, H. (2010). Small business applications of sourcemap: a web tool for sustainable design and supply chain transparency. In Proceedings of the 28th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, USA, April 10 - 15, 2010). CHI '10. ACM, New York, NY, 937-946. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1753326.1753465
  4. Carbon.to: What does a kilogram of CO2 really mean? Retrieved from http://carbon.to/
  5. Carlson, Raul., Tivander, Johan. (2001) Data Definition and File Syntax for ISO/TS 14048 Data Exchange: with Data Storage Format Based on ISO/TS 14048 CPM - Centre for Environmental Assessment of Product and Material Systems. CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY. Göteborg, Sweden.
  6. Ciroth, Andreas. (2006). ICT for environment in life cycle applications openLCA - A new open source software for Life Cycle Assessment. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 11(5). 295-297.
  7. Fielding, Roy Thomas. (2000). Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures, chapter 5: Representational State Transfer (REST) (Doctoral dissertation). University of California, Irvine.
  8. International Organization of Standardization. (2001). ISO/TS 14048 Environmental management – Life Cycle Assessment – Data documentation format. ISO/TC 207/SC 5/WG 2/TG N 20, SIS
  9. Linked Data - Connect Distributed Data across the Web. Retrieved from http://linkeddata.org
  10. Open Data Commons, Retrieved from http://www.opendatacommons.org
  11. Sourcemap: Open Supply Chains. Retreived at http://www.sourcemap.org/
  12. Zapico, JL. Brandt, N. Turpeinen, M. (2010). Environmental Metrics: Metrics as the main opportunity of ICT for Industrial Ecology. International Journal of Industrial Ecology.