Life cycle assessment is the accounting of resource inputs, outputs, and net gain or loss over the lifetime of a product. It’s just like accounting for a financial budget, but instead of money, it considers resources, which may or may not have monetary value. Many different types of resources are considered for a life cycle analysis, such as water, raw materials, energy, carbon dioxide, and environmental health.
For those interested in energy/environmental conservation and sustainability, a life cycle analysis can be used to analyze the impact of each step in a production process, and also to compare the cumulative effects of one product over another. This can help provide a measure of how sustainable or resource-exhaustive a product is. These kinds of assessments help producers understand areas to improve efficiency and make decisions that affect the producer's and consumers' imprint on sustainability and conservation.