The goal of this research is to characterize the effects of use patterns on the environmental sustainability of consumer products, and to enable decision making throughout design processes that encourages product sustainability. Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) are currently used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product, but there can be considerable uncertainty in these analyses, especially relating to the use phase of the product. To better understand this uncertainty, we conducted environmental impact assessments of 20 household products, and employed two uncertainty quantification approaches to accommodate variation in the use phase of these products. The results from each product were then compared to products with similar attributes to find generalizations. This knowledge was integrated into decision trees so designers can better understand the degree to which use-phase uncertainty can affect quantitative measures of environmental impact before performing LCAs. This work enables designers to make more informed decisions about the intended use and use lifetimes of consumer products, potentially leading to a reduced environmental impact of this life cycle phase.

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