Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Adding Another Day Into Your Life

What does it feel like to add an extra day into a week?  Well, we all found out this morning (or was it yesterday?). This morning we woke up at 1:45 in the morning to travel to ‘Das Backhaus’ which is a certified organic bakery in the nearby town of Gottingen. It was a bit surreal to be awake then, to have a tour and watch bread being made, and then to go home and sleep for four hours, only to wake up and feel as if the bakery visit had been a dream. I just cannot make the connection that today was the same day as when we were there, and yet, it all happened on August 24. Date confusion and tiredness aside, going to the bakery was a valuable experience! On one hand we learned what it feels like to be a baker on any scale larger than just making a loaf at home (i.e. getting up so early), and on the other hand we got to see some of the things we’d been talking about such as quality dough and different baking processes.
In the afternoon we talked about life-cycle analyses (LCA)  for bread, and so having seen the working bakery just previously was very good. Das Backhaus is different from the bakery in the LCA reading though, because instead of buying flour from an industrial miller, they buy whole grains from five local farmers and mill them at the mills in their building. Thus the transportation energy required in the production is especially different from the bakery in the LCA model, but it was still useful for me to have a real-life example in my mind.
We had a lot of discussion about both the good things but also the shortcomings of life-cycle analyses. What seems on the surface like a very good tool for assessing the impacts and sustainability of products and production cycles is actually quite simplified and depending on the boundaries of the assessment put forth the outcome could potentially tell very little, if it fails to account for the complexity of system. I think that the LCA model is very useful and actually can tell a lot, if the assessment parameters appropriately take into account aspects at deep enough levels. Whew, that was very theoretical, and hopefully not too dense, but after writing these past few sentences I now understand how Ifeel about LCAs as an assessment tool.

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