What is a life cycle assessment (LCA)?

Trees for Energy Conservation April 27, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

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.



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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.