It is the character of modern consumer society to promote the idea that nothing is connected, that the jeans we wear, or the food we eat, are matters of personal choice without any greater context beyond a concern for immediate pleasure and peer approval. Sustainability, by contrast, teaches that everything is connected. That favorite pair of jeans, for instance, is dependent on cheap labor in developing countries, on heavily fertilized cotton plantations, and enormous volumes of water expended throughout the jeans’ lifecycle, from the irrigation to grow the cotton to the washing machine that cleans them.
LCA is a technique to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process, or service, by:
- Compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases
- Evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with identified inputs and releases
- Interpreting the results to help you make a more informed decision
The LCA101 document, entitled “Life Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice,” provides an introductory overview of Life Cycle Assessment and describes the general uses and major components of LCA. This document is an update and merger of two previous EPA documents on LCA (“Life Cycle Assessment: Inventory Guidelines and Principles” (EPA/600/R-92/245) and a previous version of “LCA101” from the LCAccess website).
EIO-LCA: Free, Fast, Easy Life Cycle Assessment
The Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA) method estimates the materials and energy resources required for, and the environmental emissions resulting from, activities in our economy. The EIO-LCA method was theorized and developed by economist Wassily Leontief in the 1970s based on his earlier input-output work from the 1930s for which he received the Nobel Prize in Economics. Researchers at the Green Design Institute of Carnegie Mellon University operationalized Leontief’s method in the mid-1990s, once sufficient computing power was widely available to perform the large-scale matrix manipulations required in real-time. This website takes the EIO-LCA method and transforms it into a user-friendly on-line tool to quickly and easily evaluate a commodity or service, as well as its supply chain. The results from the EIO-LCA model and this website are free for non-commercial use and may not be used in other derivative works or websites without permission.