Life Cycle Assessment: An Introduction

LCA History in the United States
    Life cycle assessment (LCA) “evaluates the environmental effects associated with any given activity from the initial gathering of raw materials from the earth (petroleum, crops, ores, etc.) to the point at which all materials to the earth” (Curran 1996, p. 1.2). LCA was first introduced in the 1960’s when concerns over environmental impacts and interests in finding new ways to account for energy use were first making appearances in business practices. For example, in 1969 “researchers initiated an internal study for The Coca-Cola Company that laid the foundation for the current methods of life cycle inventory analysis in the United States” (Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) 2006, p. 4). LCA progressed as a process throughout the world in the following years thus improving the methodology. Specifically, solid waste became a large issue in the late 1980’s. “LCA again emerged as a tool for analyzing environmental problems” (Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) 2006, p.5).

Environmental Impacts
Any process that requires using materials can produce environmental impacts—positive or negative... (read more)

Watch these videos to help understand LCA’s basic concepts.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is composed of four primary phases: 

    1.) Goal and Scope Definition 
    2.) Inventory Analysis
    3.) Impact Assessment 
    4.) Interpretation 

The illustration on the right shows how they connect to each other.Goal_%26_Scope.htmlInventory_Analysis.htmlImpact_Assessment.htmlInterpretation.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2shapeimage_2_link_3
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