CSS Research Forum

Event Type: 
Friday, October 9, 2020 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Event Sponsor: 
Center for Sustainable Systems
School for Environment and Sustainability

Please join us for our first CSS Research Forum of Fall 2020.

We'll hear presentations from:

Luyao Li

Luyao is a M.S. Candidate at the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). Her academic interests include sustainable supply chain, carbon emission reduction strategies, and climate change mitigation. Her current research emphasizes on assessing the sustainability of emergent systems. Luyao received her B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University and has work experience in database management, environmental compliance, and remediation projects. At Michigan, Luyao serves as a VP for the Energy Club at Ross.

Conventional Versus Automated Parcel Delivery: LCA of Last-Mile and Final 50-Feet Ground Delivery Systems

As E-commerce thrives amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing interest in automated last-mile delivery. Many companies are exploring the use of robots for last-mile ground delivery to better understand the potential benefits of this emerging technology. We developed a life cycle model to evaluate the energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of an automated delivery system, composed of a full-sized connected autonomous vehicle (CAV) for the last mile coupled with a robot for the final-50-feet. An internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) and a battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform of two different sized cargo volume vans, a 125 cubic feet cargo van (V125) and a 350 cubic feet cargo van (V350), were analyzed. The analysis was based on three ground delivery combinations: 1). a conventional (non-automated) vehicle with a human, 2). a conventional vehicle with a robot, and 3). a CAV with a robot. For the base case (1.67 packages/mile, 885 W CAV subsystem operating power, 20% and 15% operational efficiency improvement for ICEV and BEV), the automated delivery system generates more GHG emissions than the conventional delivery system except for the V350 ICEV platform, which has a 6.5% GHG emissions reduction. The robot’s GHG contributions to the delivery system are relatively small (3-6%).


Hannah Fetner

Hannah is a second year Master’s student in Sustainable Systems, focusing on LCA of food and consumer products. She earned her B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan, then worked as a Quality Process Engineer before returning to graduate school. Currently, she is serving as a Co-Chair for Sustainability without Borders – Peru, focusing on an irrigation pipeline project in the Ayacucho region.

GHG Emission Payback Periods of Reusable Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic Kitchenware Products

Many consumers looking to cut back on their single-use plastic usage have turned to reusable alternatives, such as metal straws, beeswax wrap and metal coffee mugs. Oftentimes this transition is being made without consideration of the carbon footprint associated with these alternatives, which are frequently made of more resource intensive materials. This study looked at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with reusable alternatives for single-use plastic kitchenware products, and determined environmental payback periods. Kitchenware product categories included straws, sandwich bags and coffee cups. The research found that results were highly sensitive to use phase emissions for the reusable products, and that changes in washing frequency significantly reduced payback period. Products that were machine washed had quicker payback periods than those manually washed. Carbon intensity of the energy grid also had significant impacts on use-phase emissions, making reusable products more favorable for consumers with low intensity grids. Using Monte Carlo Analysis, it was found that six of the nine reusable alternatives were able to breakeven when washed after every use. Metal straws and ceramic mugs were found to have the lowest payback periods for the straw and coffee cup categories. Both of the sandwich bag reusable alternatives did not breakeven, even when washed after every third use. Paper straws, plastic wrap and foam coffee cups were found to be the best single-use products. Overall, this study suggests that reusable alternatives can payback the greenhouse gas impacts associated with their more resource intensive materials, but it is dependent on number of uses, consumer behavior and carbon intensity of the energy grid.


Nick Kemp

Nick is a recent SEAS graduate (’20) and completed his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from U-M (’12). He completed his thesis research on the life cycle impact of connected and automated SUVs and vans. Prior to attending SEAS, he worked as a process engineer for Becton Dickinson (BD) in their Life Sciences division.  Before joining BD, Nick worked as a manufacturing engineer for Dow AgroSciences. Outside of work, Nick enjoys trail running, backpacking, climbing and photography.

University of Michigan Carbon Accounting and Modeling

In February of 2019, U-M President Mark Schlissel announced the formation of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality (PCCN) with the stated goal to develop recommendations on how U-M could achieve carbon neutrality. As part of the PCCN’s efforts we developed a model to determine U-M’s baseline emissions and projected business as usual (BAU) emissions through 2050. The model also evaluates the impact of over 30 emission reduction and other mitigation (e.g., RECs and off-site solar) strategies. This talk will cover the background of carbon accounting, the modeling process, and insights from our modeling effort.

To join this Zoom event: https://umich.zoom.us/j/95330748481  passcode:  939462