Getting to the point:
What is an environmental impact point?

If you are interested in topics related to environmental protection, there is a good chance that you have already encountered the term environmental impact point (EIP).

You will also frequently come across EIPs on our website – such as when you take a look at the cumulative life cycle assessment since SENS eRecycling was founded.

But what exactly is an environmental impact point?

An EIP is simply a unit of measurement, just like a metre or kilogram. However, EIPs do not measure size or weight; instead, they express how much harm a product or action does to our shared environment. EIPs are very practical when you want to make comparisons that are quantitatively and scientifically sound but still descriptive and easy to understand: From an environmental standpoint, is product A or B better? How large is the environmental footprint of action 1 compared to action 2?

Calculating environmental impact points accurately is a rather complex and demanding activity. Such calculations require information about all material and energy flows associated with a product, service or action throughout its entire life cycle. This starts with the provision of raw materials and manufacturing activities, continues with its use and ends with disposal. Once all emissions into the soil, water and air have been determined, along with the resources required, they must be assessed and weighted in terms of their impact on health, the climate and various ecosystems. These extensive and complex calculations result in a single parameter – environmental impact points – which can then serve as a summary of all impacts. The higher the score, the greater the environmental impact.

But what is the exact meaning of 1,000 EIPs, for example?

You generate 1,000 EIPs on a car journey of 2 km, a train journey of 23 km or by flying 3 km within Europe. 100 g of soap, 2 rolls of toilet paper and 7% of a cotton T-shirt are also individually equivalent to 1,000 EIPs. The same applies to 9 g of beef, 250 g of bread, 7 cups of coffee or 0.7 litres of beer. For 1,000 EIPs, you can use your laptop for 15 hours or keep a 60-watt light bulb burning for 10 days. In Switzerland, the way we live causes all of us to generate 1,000 EIPs every 20 minutes or so.

Environmental impact points are also a very good way of quantifying the major benefits associated with eRecycling. If you take a broken washing machine to the recycling centre, you will save around 40,000 EIPs, which is roughly equivalent to a journey by car from Zurich to Bern. Another impressive figure is the 151,000 billion EIPs that have been saved since the founding of SENS eRecycling, which corresponds to the annual environmental footprint of 7.5 million Swiss citizens.

To put it another way, suppose that the next time you are at the pub, you want to buy a round for everyone. You could pay for the entire world population to drink a half-pint of beer 60 times over – equivalent to the amount of beer that would generate as many environmental impact points through its production as has been saved in Switzerland thanks to eRecycling.