Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool to assign a value to the environmental impact of a product, process or activity through its entire life cycle. Organizations can use it to help label their products or services and educate consumers about their environmental impacts. LCA can also help organizations strategically plan and design products with less environmental impact.
LCA analyzes the impact of the product from cradle to grave or until it becomes a feedstock for another product. It reviews a product or service, including the energy and material inputs and outputs, accounting for material wastes, recycling and reuse. Even completing a partial LCA can provide a company insight on opportunities to improve a product or service.
LCA examines and provides information about:
- Extracting, transporting and processing raw materials that go into a product or service.
- Processing, manufacturing and fabricating a product or service.
- Transporting or distributing a product or service to the consumer.
- Using a product or service by the consumer.
- Disposing or recovering a product after its useful life.
- Quantifying product and service inputs and outputs.
The analysis provides an understanding of each stage of product life. It can help identify inputs or processes that have more harmful impacts. You can use the LCA technique to make choices about specific feedstocks or processes, resulting in a more sustainable product or service. These assessments may help an organization identify where substituting a less hazardous material or improving the energy efficiency of a process can reduce the overall environmental impact of a product or service.
When companies use similar LCA techniques, customers can identify preferred products and services by comparing scores to make an informed decision. Completing an LCA can improve a business’ products and services and attract new customers interested in using environmentally preferable products.
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