Environmental impacts come in many forms, but, in terms of the larger concept of sustainability, this is a subject almost as large as sustainability itself and there are distinct stages or periods in a product life that all impact the environment.
To make a product, raw materials need to be garnered and transported to all the various facilities that make the components, assemble the product, and make and pack the packaging (even the packaging is a kind of sub-product itself for the purpose of this discussion. )Then the product must be distributed to all the outlets where it is sold and resold. The products they must make it from the seller to the end-user. Finally, the user will use the product for a time, and, finally, once it has past its useful life, it needs to be ‘disposed’ of in some way.
Obtaining resources for manufacturing has mostly meant extracting and harvesting raw materials followed by refining those resources so that they can be made into components to be assembled into useful products. Extraction (mining, drilling, fracking) and harvesting (especially trees and many forms of petro-based agriculture) is extremely harmful to the environment. Whole mountains have been torn down in South Africa to obtain diamonds, and in West Virginia to obtain coal. The Amazon and the Olympic rain forests have dwindled drastically in size, destroying natural habitat and watersheds in the process.
Now, mostly landfills and garages and even the ocean, are full of these resources that are no longer used for any productive purpose and, often, represent ongoing environmental damage. Repairing, recycling, reusing, and repurposing are all simple ways to reduce the impact of gathering materials to be made back into useful items or to extend the life of these products. These approaches all reduce what is, often, the worst causes of negative environmental impacts in a products lifecycle. So, any products that are designed to have a long useful life, and to be easily recycled when that useful life is over, can be said to be deliberately sustainable.
Ducoterra infrared radiant heating panels are made from four basic component parts which are all sourced as close to the factory as possible, to reduce the energy (and emissions) needed to transport them. They have a steel plate on the ceiling side, which is a highly recycled material. Aerogel, a high-tech insulation made from silica, which is originally found in sandstone and other common rock, is non-toxic and completely recyclable. The heating element is next (moving down from the ceiling-side) and is made from specialized wire which is, again, can be recycled. And, finally, the whole thing is enclosed in a unibody (one-piece) box that closes in the sides and front (room-side) of the panel. And that’s it.
So, not only do these panels have a lifetime warranty because they will last for decades of effective use, the materials to make them are not transported across oceans, are easily recycled, and even the process of taking them apart and separating the materials for recycling couldn’t be simpler. When measured over time, the environmental impact of the panels is extremely low, and they represent a new and necessary approach to sustainability called cradle-to-cradle, which mimics natural cycles in how products are made and remade.