Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment to Influence Use of Alternative Fibers

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Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor of Natural Systems in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Norman Marsolan, director of Georgia Tech’s Institute of Paper Science and Technology, are developing an assessment for Kimberly-Clark (K-C) on the environmental and broader sustainability issues related to using non-forest alternative fibers. K-C, the world’s largest tissue manufacturer, has partnered with Georgia Tech on this project to more fully understandand responsibly manage the impact of its decisions on fiber.

Thomas is working with Wenman Liu, a PhD student in the School of Public Policy, to evaluate a wide range of environmental impacts, including water use, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and ecosystem impacts, as well as broader issues regarding land use and sustainability.

In addition to its efforts to reduce its forest fiber footprint, K-C has announced its plan to transition at least 50 percent of wood fiber sourced from natural forests to alternate fiber sources by 2025. This broad, new initiative is expected to help protect biodiversity and reduce the impacts of fiber that the company uses, while ensuring the fiber is sourced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Equally important, the initiative will also help insulate the company from continuing volatile price fluctuations in the world fiber market.

With a joint appointment in the School of Public Policy, Thomas’ research interests include energy and materials efficiency, sustainability, industrial ecology, technology assessment, international security, and science and technology policy. Thomas is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society.

This article first appeared in the 2012 edition of the ISyE Alumni Magazine.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Ashley Daniel
  • Created: 12/17/2012
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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