life cycle assessment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a cradle-to-grave or cradle-to-cradle analysis technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, which is from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, and use.
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There are four linked components of LCA:

  • Goal definition and scoping: identifying the LCA’s purpose and the expected products of the study, and determining the boundaries (what is and is not included in the study) and assumptions based upon the goal definition;

  • Life-cycle inventory: quantifying the energy and raw material inputs and environmental releases associated with each stage of production;

  • Impact analysis: assessing the impacts on human health and the environment associated with energy and raw material inputs and environmental releases quantified by the inventory;

  • Improvement analysis: evaluating opportunities to reduce energy, material inputs, or environmental impacts at each stage of the product life-cycle.

Life cycle assessment is an essential aspect of sustainability in production. While LCA is typically applied to environmental sustainability, an ‘integrated life cycle approach’ can also be used to measure the social and economic impact (life cycle costing, LCC) of products.

Keeping all three in balance is key if we are to make sustainable products. It is important to note that social and economic factors are as critical as environmental factors if we are to create industries and societies which are truly sustainable.

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