Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Embodiement of resources is a concept which attempts to account for the total energy/carbon output or water used throughout a products lifecycle. This includes the resources used in the extraction of the raw materials, the processing, manufacture, assembly, installation, transport, disassembly, deconstruction and decomposition of the item.
For example, take a mug. Firstly, clay was extracted from the earth and cleaned and processed until it is suitably workable. This clay was then transported to a manufacturing facility where is was shaped, glazed and fired (the glaze also has embodied resources which need to be accounted for in its composition, manufacture and transport to the facility where it is to be used). Kilns are usually run on electricity or gas and firing clay requires extremely high temperatures over long periods of time.
Once the mug has been fired, it is cooled, cleaned and packaged for shipping. Of course, the packaging has it's own embodied resources that need to be considered. It is then shipped, is it shipped via air?, sea? consider carbon output of these methods?
Once it arrives at the port, it is usually collected by truck and delivered to a terminal and further transported to individual stores for sale. It is then unpacked, put on display and subsequently packaged again and then unpacked by you at home (The resources required to run the store, for you to get to the store, purchase the product and return home also need to be considered).
After some time the product is discarded by you and then we need to consider the process of decomposition, it is picked up by a garbage truck, transported to landfill and slowly decomposes, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
Until now these methods and concepts have only commonly been used in the construction industry where complex accounting formulas exist to measure these factors on a numeric value and produce a score in order to rate the buildings environmental impact. Of course, unless you are really inspired to (and it's not impossible), calculating all these steps to produce a score for every product you purchase is just not practical in everyday life, however by simply being aware and considering the steps required throughout the lifecycle of any product makes you more conscious as to it's environmentally friendliness. This is why I strongly advocate buying locally. Australia is such a large country and our cities are spread so far apart, with little other infrastructure than road, simply delivering from store to door creates a large impact, let alone including transport from overseas.
Of course, the mug is used as an example only and I may have missed parts of the process but I hope you get the idea!