Sunday, 7 April 2013

ISO14001 Environmental Aspect Illustrated

Clause 6.1.2 of this international standard stipulates the requirement to identify 'environmental aspects' associated with our activities, products or services; which we can control; and those that could cause significant impact to the environment. This article would illustrate this terminology in as much simplicity as possible by using a non-conventional example from a conventionally popular sports worldwide - Tennis. Is tennis ball an environmental aspect? Does it interact with environment? Should tennis be a sport to be organized with environmental due-diligence? How to manage this sport with more environmental practices? Please consider this as a friendly remark from a tennis fan to all tennis organizers and associations. Most importantly, this understanding shall facilitate any other activities regardless of size, type and nature to get closer to the mastery of the term Environmental Aspect.

Tennis Balls - Its Life Chronology? The first ball on the left (Dunlop) was used for 2 sets of tennis among 5 other similarly fresh ones. The second ball 'Prince' was 3 months old, the third (Babolat) was about 10 months, the fourth was 16 months and the last one was once a discarded Wilson 'Trainer' used ball but we reused them for 18 more months. Ironically the last ball still bounces about 70% in height of a fresh ball but travels airborne much slower and felt more controllable.

So, is a tennis ball an environmental aspect? Thus, by referring to the definition provided by this international standard, one has to view the entire life-cycle-assessment of a tennis ball in order to understand how and what impact to the environment is associated to it; from its making, use and finally disposal. Let us start by viewing a simplified manufacturing scheme of tennis balls. The illustration below is a summarized flow chart of tennis ball production. The 'environmental aspects' are in green and red fonts that represents 'input' and 'output' respectively which are involved in each segment of the production process. The question - what are the associated impact to the environment from each of these listed aspects?
Note: The 2015 version of the ISO14001 is illustrated on this link:  Please use the comment column below if you'd like to verify or share more of this knowledge. In this article, I'd try my best to keep it short and simple i.e. KISS. (For professional LCA practitioners. you'd have anticipated the boundaries and allocation for this simplified LCA just by looking at two more diagrams that follows. Your 'excruciating' LCA experience is much awaited for sharing with patrons of my blog, if you're generous enough, that is.

Tennis Balls Production Flow Summary. A mechanical engineer would be smiling away when they see this so called 'input-output' summary of the production flow-chart. It's that basic 'mass-balance' concept used in an LCA (Life-Cycle-Assessment) of a product balance. In the reality of a sound and accurate EMS (Environmental Management System), one needs to quantify each of these environmental aspects, both input and output, in a normalized manner. This is done to the extent that one could measure and calculate, for example, how much of the electrical energy was used/involved in the making of each tennis balls. For instance, 0.00025kWh per tennis ball. This applies to all environmental aspects identified before actually evaluating them for its degree of significance of causing environmental impact. As further example, say 0.8g Sheep Wool per tennis ball as derived from the felt fabrication, 0.22g Cotton per tennis ball and 0.5g Nylon per tennis ball. So, Sheep Wool, Cotton and Nylon are natural resources as illustrated in the next diagram. The question is; which is renewable and non-renewable resource. If you're an ardent fan of tennis and at the same time an environmental-conscious citizen of this planet, which material would you prefer? Kindly interact using the comment column at the page bottom. 
Once these environmental aspects are identified and quantified with full respect to accuracy then they are evaluated for its potential to cause significant impact to the environment. An array of evaluation criteria is involved for the plethora of aspects from varying nature and properties. This international standard has emphasized that we should be prioritizing the management of Significant Environmental Aspect in our EMS. Personally, I'd rank Sheep Wool, Cotton and Latex be less significant aspect as compared to Nylon if I'm advising this factory for an ISO14001 Certification. Why? What's 'less green' of nylon? Isn't there impact to the environment from sheep and cotton farms too? What impact? Which matter cause the impact? Well, one nice excursion to perhaps one of the famous New Zealand's sheep farm would be interesting if not fascinating! Well, before you make that trip the illustration below might provide some basic idea.
Tennis Ball's LCA. The greenish sphere 'belt' represents what's actually a 3-dimensional representation of the real environment in, on and around this planet - the entire biosphere. It is absolutely where our resources are. We just inhabit it. You see, in order to produce those fluffy and bouncy tennis balls that have made many players millionaire yesterday and today; (and so is with other human activities for that matter), involves the extraction and transformation of materials from the nature. The nature stores natural resources. You and me, we take it out, transform it into intermediate materials or products, by biological, physical and chemical 'blending', treat it whatsoever, to get what we need and want. In this case the tennis ball. At least, our friends who rare sheep in New Zealand and elsewhere are in more ecologically sustainable business activity. My salute to them as they produce a renewable resource for the sport. I believe, those sheeps' dungs has good use. Their gazing area is an absolute natural habitat which are free from stable herbicides and biocides like DDT. I'm a lover of goat's milk anyway. The cotton farm and rubber estates produces cotton and latex respectively and are also regarded as renewable resources but often in excess of herbicides, fertilizers and pest control chemicals to ensure maximum productivity. Whatever we bring about in the environment shall come back to us, so, a controlled application of these substances is crucial especially when it is being done manually. The Health-Safety-Environment in practice to be observed.
Kindly observe those Green Fonts that represents 'input' to this overall product balance. Do you see those 'renewable resources'? Those other materials are 'non-renewable' resources such as electrical energy from fossil fuels, metal parts from earth's rock profiles, etc. Air and water are renewable resources but we keep contaminating them continuously, thus, changes it's cycles into some state of irreversible imbalance, the main reason for the climate change. Well, we got what we 'worked' for i.e. the tennis balls. But, what else are generated, released and discharged as 'unwanted matters' which finds itself back 'home' - into the environment? Frequently, they re-enters the environment in some other forms that are not readily acceptable by their mother-nature! It's a simple conflict of their very own conventions. It's like the nylon fiber that initially 'leaves home' as mud-laden dense crude oil and comes back into earth soil as used tennis balls which did not biodegrade even after 5 years. I have seen some of this stray tennis balls embedded in soils at our club during  housekeeping operations.
An old tennis ball that slowly fades away from 
its once glorious 3000 rpm spins into a quiet halt.
From top spin to top soil
The diagram below is showing what happen to those resources as they enter the transformation that makes them to come together as a tennis ball. Again, please observe those green and red fonts that represents input and output environmental aspects. Therefore, its these 'environmental aspects' that needs to be managed systematically in manners that their subsequent or consequent effect (impact) to the environment is minimized if not neutralized. The output in Red Fonts are those unwanted material substance that includes used and discarded products.  Of cause, our relentless endeavor of recycling, reuse, and reclamation is noteworthy. But, I guess any layman knows that we haven't done enough for the nature to regain it's balance. It is for this ideology that the color of this 'green-belt' illustration appears yellowish that symbolizes its over exploitation, contamination and damage.
This is a simple representation of the Life-cycle-analysis of tennis balls as viewed from a holistic environmental sciences perspective. In the I.S.O terms - overall L.C.A. as ISO14040 and 14044. Lets run through some simple examples of the association between environmental aspects and impact as follows;
Environmental Aspect                                                                          Probable Environmental Impact

  • Nutrient                                                                                           Impaired Food Chain, Eutrophication etc.
  • Excess fertilizers                                                                          Soil contamination
  • Fuel                                                                                                    Resource depletion, Ruptured Bedrock
  • Air impurities                                                                                Air pollution
  • Effluent                                                                                             Water pollution
  • Metals and minerals                                                                    Damaged geostructures
  • Disposed tennis balls                                                                   ??????? - you decide!
So, should tennis be a sport to be organized with environmental due-diligence? 
How to manage this sport with more environmental practices vis-a-vis ISO14001? 
My opinion is listed at random, selected few and not according to priority, and for this moment as follows;

  • during tournaments: use recycling or recyclable materials or glass bottles instead of plastic bottles, good to have portable chilled water and juice dispensers for competing players and all related staffs; towels be 100% cotton, player's racquet be wrapped in paper, cotton or recyclable plastic packages; used tennis balls from training and matches be reused by tennis schools or their respective clubs; players attire be made from cotton and their sweaters from wool.
  • hard courts be constructed on an elevated engineered platform structure so as not to deprive the bottom soil from its routine rain water seepage for cooling and aeration; and adequate water pipes for storm-water to enter the soil media and keep the top-soil cool. The court surface would be much cooler this way and the balls may last longer. (The earth's surfaces have already been made warm when we lay concrete and tarmac which have high heat retention properties in addition to blocking the cooling effect of water from re-entering the soil to participate in its natural water-cycle process. The heat from sun's radiation actually heats up these surfaces and its convection current heats up the air. So, hotter earth soil surface, tarmac surface, building surface, etc. And, 'hotter' Australian Open ?! Love the 2013 Wawrinka - Jokovic Semi-finals - the unforgettable 'Hot' battle.)
  • Do not break those expensive tennis racquet! I and millions others have to save or at least plan a budget to pay for racquets, balls, shoes etc. that literally keeps the sports going! (I admire Roger Federer's father who warned him against breaking this closest partner - the racquet!) 
  • Time for the tennis ball manufacturer to make another evolutionary product - environmental friendly tennis ball. More wool and cottons thus substituting nylon in progressive phases. Well, don't build Rome in one day if one can't afford to. Steady and gradual progression by employing young masters of natural-polymer scientist, biochemists, engineers, etc. can serve for this purpose. Who knows that those synthetic rubber in Slugs can be made out of corn, tapioca or oat starch! Even if it could only last for 3 sets - a good start still. Well, they're bio-degradable and easily acceptable to the environment. (or, cook it ... eat your heart out!).
  • I welcome your suggestion! Add on.

After it was broken when Abdul Malik
attempted a hard slice at knee height
and hit the court floor.
I have to plan its replacement!

Tennis balls is an Environmental Aspect. Environmental aspects are anything that interacts with the environment in a any manner that can cause favorable (beneficial) of unfavorable (adverse) impact to the environment. The accuracy and manageability of an EMS depends on its quantified identification for this is subsequently and continually being used and referred to in the construction of Environmental Policy, Objective, Targets, Program and so on.

I believe that the above explanation is vivid and those diagrams are self-explanatory. However, do not hesitate to inquire through the comment column below if further assistance is needed with no obligation. I'm not a buinessman. I'm just a professional trainer whose passion is the environmental sciences, and, with it I lived to this day. Well, I'd K.I.S.S as promised.
Reach for the writer Khalid Mohd Ariff
Tel: 019-7725676, +607-2441221