Maartje Sevenster was born in Leiden, the Netherlands and started her career as an astrophysicist. She completed some of her PhD research in Australia and ended up working at Australian National University for 3 years. This was followed by a return to the Netherlands and a decade of experience in life-cycle management consultancy to business and government with think tank CE Delft. In 2011 Maartje returned to Australia and now operates as an independent consultant under Sevenster Environmental. She also sits on the Board of ALCAS.
When and why did you first become involved with LCA?
By chance, in a way; I got a short contract position in 2002 to pinpoint the mathematical differences in the impact pathways used in EcoIndicator99 and the CML method, two important characterization methods of that time. This was my LCA baptism of fire and I immediately saw the perfect opportunity to combine my analytic and mathematical skills with my drive to work on reducing the environmental impacts of our economic activities.
How are you using LCA today?
I use LCA in my consultancy work to provide a robust quantitative foundation for decision-making. LCA results never tell us what to do, but they allow us to act in accordance with our subjective values. Apart from environmental LCA, I also do social LCA, which is a powerful tool in today's world of sustainable development goals and supply chain responsibility.
What do you predict will be the future of LCA in Australia?
LCA is a key ingredient in some relatively new Australian schemes, such as the Australasian EPD programme and Greenstar materials life cycle impacts credits. Overseas markets are developing other LCA based product disclosure requirements that will apply to some Australian exports. This growing demand for LCA will contribute to making LCA more of a mainstream go-to tool. My personal hope is that LCA will play an important role in designing the “circular economy” to avoid overlooking potential burden shifting, such as happened when the EU first started promoting biofuels in 2003.
Tell us about your role on the ALCAS Board?
I was Secretary of the board for two years, and currently I am chairing the Marketing, Advocacy and Business Development Committee. Our aim is to increase visibility of LCA and to grow membership so ALCAS can work on behalf of the full LCA community.
In what ways do you think ALCAS can most benefit its members?
A professional body is a crucial part of a well-functioning discipline. I still hear too often that LCA is “too complex” or “too niche”. This is an image that we continue to try and improve, so our advocacy role is important.
As well, ALCAS is working hard to provide best practice guidance as well as informative events, such as our upcoming series of webinars that are free for members. Members are also invited to join a subcommittee and thus contribute to developments. At this point, both ALCAS and the field of LCA are relatively small (even smaller than my original field of astronomy which was a surprise at first) and we would all benefit from their growth.