Terms Associated with LCA

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a holistic and systematic method for analyzing the environmental and human health impacts of a product or process across its life cycle. An LCA consists of four steps:

1. Define the goal and scope.
2. Analyze the inventory (LCI).
3. Assess the impacts (LCIA).
4. Interpret the results.

Life cycle inventory (LCI) is the accounting method used to track the input and output material and energy flows associated with each step in a process or in the production of a product. An LCA of a cardboard box, for example, may involve linking dozens of LCI data sets to study the raw materials extraction, production, transportation, use, and recycling or disposal life cycle stages.

Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) is the process of developing indicators of potential human and ecological impacts from the LCI data.

Carbon Dioxide Equivalents (CO2-eq) provide a universal standard of measurement against which the impacts of releasing (or avoiding the release of) different greenhouse gases can be evaluated. Carbon dioxide equivalents allows the effect of different greenhouse gases and other factors to be compared using carbon dioxide as a standard unit of reference.  The U.S. EPA defines carbon dioxide equivalent as a metric measurement used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential (GWP).  For a glossary of climate change terms see https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/glossary.html.