Member Profile: Samuel Warmerdam
Samuel Warmerdam is a sustainability specialist with thinkstep-anz and the most recent addition to our list of LCA Certified Practitioners.
Raised in Wellington, Sam graduated from the University of Adelaide with a BE (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering, specialising in renewable energy. He now focuses on quantifying environmental sustainability, with expertise in LCA, EPDs and corporate carbon footprints. He is particularly interested in helping companies identify their emissions hotspots and ways to reduce them.
ALCAS spoke to Sam about his journey to sustainability, and then delved into the quantification of sustainability.
When (and why) did you first become involved in sustainability?
I first became involved in sustainability while studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical and Sustainable Energy) at the University of Adelaide. I did several courses in that degree which gave me an introduction to sustainability as well as a brief research intern position towards the end of my studies. I initially got into sustainability because for me it is clear that we are not existing on this planet in a manner which can be continued for a extended period of time. There are many aspects for this, but climate change is the obvious global and immediate one. I want to be part of the solution to make sure we can live on this planet for generations to come
Your areas of expertise (LCA, EPD, Carbon Footprint) all relate to quantification. How is data and quantification important to improving sustainability?
Quantification is so important to sustainability because it is often easy to just greenwash areas and people are becoming more and more aware of this. Hard data means that claims are either able to be backed up or not and it also means that improvements in environmental impacts can be tracked as well. This allows for the constructing of business cases for certain decisions with an environmental lens being included – for example switching a heating process from natural gas to electricity or using the GreenPower accredited renewable electricity scheme.
You qualified as an LCA Certified Practitioner. How did you find the qualification process and why do you think certification is important?
I found the qualification process to be easy enough. I did enjoy studying for the exam more than I thought I would as it involved me learning a bit about terms and methods that I don’t use as much in my work. I felt like this was useful in rounding out my knowledge base so I am at least aware of these areas in future.
Certification is important to ensure that there is consistency between practitioners in terms of competence and ethics.
How effective do you think current methods of quantification and certification are in ensuring accurate, comparable data that facilitates good decision making? Are there changes you would like to see in the future?
I think current methods are fairly good. One area that we can run into difficulties is that practitioners can tend to make things more complicated that they need to be, which can be overwhelming for a non-expert (and often experts as well). As a field we can do better to show this information more clearly. For example, in an EPD there can be up to three total carbon footprints values which are all fairly similar but are following different standards (EN 15804+A2 for example). Our job as practitioners is not only calculating impacts, but also in guiding others what to look at.