Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Basics

From the Cradle to the Grave:  Where the inputs and outputs at each life cycle stage are taken into account and traced back to their original source, including transport for all stages.  The idea behind life cycle thinking is that everyone looks backwards and forwards to make sure that the products and services we use make as little impact on the environment as possible.

When we are choosing products and services, we have to look at the impacts that are brought with them from manufacture, what impacts are produced while we are using the product, and what impacts happen when we no longer want the product.  If we only look at one part of the life cycle, we could choose a product that causes considerable environmental impacts in one or more parts of its whole life.

Whole life thinking gives us the opportunity to ask those who supply us to monitor and improve their environmental performance, to understand and improve our own performance, and to influence the routes to disposal (including seeking to increase re-use, recycling, and burning for energy recovery, and to reduce waste, burning with no energy recovery and landfill).

Life Cycle Assessments are commonly undertaken using a 3-staged approach:

LCA Stages

Details of impact categories.