Perverse and Unexpected Outcomes

Clarity work has often been controversial and challenging to conventional expectations, not infrequently finding:

  • the recycled product with a higher environmental impact than the un-recycled,
  • the perceived toxic product that proves no more toxic than alternatives once they are given equivalent scrutiny
  • the high impact material that is used in low mass, out-performing a low impact material used in high mass
  • the long-lived product that would have been better replaced sooner with a more efficient alternative
  • the less durable product which outperforms the durable product because of premature replacement
  • the insulated product or double glazing system installed in a mild climate location which never pays back the higher initial materials impacts
  • the reusable product with a higher environmental impact than the one-use product

In promoting more sustainable solutions to the public, complex issues are often over-simplified and this can often result in perverse more damaging outcomes. The general public often assume that recycling is synonymous with low environmental impact and although the 3-R’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are a popular environmental message, LCA often reveals perverse outcomes from adopting this strategy.