Tuesday, July 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Tacoma welcomes the world to environmental conference

Tacoma will display its cultural attractions and breakthroughs in environmental science to the world when American Center for Life Cycle Assessment brings its LCA XII conference to Hotel Murano Sept. 24-27. The organization, founded in 2000, is the professional society for life cycle assessment, which is the science of measuring the environmental performance of a product from cradle to grave.

Colleen Hall Barta is director of development for the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, which organizes the management of the assessment program. She explained that the assessments take into account carbon footprint, water footprint, land use, energy use and biodiversity. “It is meant to be used as a holistic yardstick for environmental measurement,” she said.

There are three types of labels used for products that go through the assessment. The first is non-scientific. Hall Barta compared it to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The second is specific to certain product categories. She compared it to the Energy Star label attached to appliances.

The third is the entire evaluation. Among the local businesses that have agreed to this process through this phase are Harmon Brewing and Ram restaurant and brewery, which have put their beers through the test, and Richlite Northwest, which makes countertops.

This will be the 12th annual conference. Hall Barta said Tacoma was selected to host it this year because it is the first city in America to receive the designation Life Cycle City. This year’s theme is “Life Cycle Thinking, Life Cycle Living.” It is meant to capture the concept of using this science in day-to-day living.

She sees the conference as a way for Tacoma to showcase its efforts to improve the environment. The opening session will have welcoming remarks by Mayor Marilyn Strickland. On the afternoon of Sept. 24 a reception will be held at Center for Urban Waters. Jim Parve, an engineer in the Public Works Department, will lead tours of the facility. LeMay Museum will host an event on Sept. 25, where the local brewers will unveil their new labels. On Sept. 26 tours will be offered of the city’s water treatment plant on Portland Avenue and EnviroHouse at the landfill. Museum of Glass will host a reception that evening.

Presenters at the conference will include a French government official explaining how the assessments have been done in that country and a researcher from the University of British Columbia on the impact of sporting events. One session will examine data collected by Tacoma Public Utilities and the city’s Environmental Services Division. “Tacoma can make claims of how clean and green it is, and it is all based on science,” Hall Barta remarked.

People interested in attending the conference can register through Sept. 24. For more information visit