February 2023 – Aspects & Impacts

One of the questions I am frequently asked when discussing a new Environmental Management System with clients is ‘what is meant by ‘Aspects and Impacts’? Faced with this question, I almost invariably find myself quoting the person who trained me, Ade Belcham, formerly of Cambio Environmental. His advice was to think of an activity such as washing a car. As we all know, washing a car will result in the use of water and detergents resulting in effluent, some solid waste and a use of energy. These are all environmental aspects. The resulting impacts in the event of an uncontrolled release are potentially water pollution resulting in deoxygenation and fish kill, sedimentation in the water course and ultimately regulatory sanction. Indirect impacts may also be on people living in proximity to where the energy is generated.

Throughout my career as an environmental professional I have used the pneumonic SHARLENE as a way of considering environmental aspects. This again came from the Cambio Environmental training and I have yet to come across a better way of defining (or remembering) them. SHARLENE stands for:

S            Solid Waste

H           Hazardous Material Usage

A           Air Emissions

R           Raw Material Usage

L            Land Usage

E            Effluent

N           Nuisance

E            Energy

Not all activities will encompass all of these aspects, but there will be at least one or two of them. By considering these eight aspects you can demonstrate that you have accounted for the significant environmental issues that an activity will have, and from this consider mitigation for any environmental impact.