Chapter 1.13: Life Cycle Assessments

A life-cycle assessment (LCA) is the “cradle-to-grave” analysis of the environmental costs associated with a given product. LCAs measure the environmental impacts of every step in the life cycle of a product, including the extraction of the raw materials; the energy needed to manufacture the product; transportation or distribution of the product to the consumer; the use of the product by the consumer; and the ultimate disposal of the product at the end of its lifespan.



Background Materials:

Defining Life Cycle Assessments (LCA):

For a general review of LCA from the United Nations Environment Program, see:

Several LCA examples from the US EPA’s Design for the Environment:


Textbook References and Links:

The link to an in-depth example from the US EPA’s LCA on tomato packaging:   

Practice exercise: Link to the article by Keyes et al. in the Journal of Cleaner Production that describes an LCA of organic vs conventionally grown apples in Nova Scotia, Canada:


Downloadable data and files: NA