"How can we fully analyze the environmental consequences of a product?"
Many new technologies such as electric vehicles market themselves as being sustainably built because they produce no emission during operation . However upon further inspection,we can see that these machines consumes quite a lot of resources during manufacturing, putting their ecological value in question.So how can we completely analyze a material object for it's environmental impact ?
Well let's use our engineering mindset to think about this , first let's look at the entire life process of such an object , from the resources required to manufacturing to shipment to operation and finally decomposition . Then let's quantify how the environment was harmed during each part of the cycle . This method is known as Life Cycle Assessment or Life Cycle Analysis and is used by sustainably minded individuals or organizations to obtain the true environmental impact of materials . From now on whenever you see that a company touts its product as sustainable just keep in mind that it might be so far only one part of it's entire process.