Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method for quantifying the potential environmental impacts of the complete lifespan of a good, product or a service – from raw material extraction, through manufacturing and use, to final disposal and recycling. This way the risk to shift environmental burdens between life cycle stages is avoided. Moreover, LCA provides an environmental profile of the product for more than only one impact category (e.g. carbon footprint). The different impact categories that we apply in greenzero are explained below.
LCA helps to focus on the most significant environmental impacts as the company develops and evaluates sustainability programs and policies; it also assists in informing product decisions to reduce the environmental impact from design and materials to manufacturing. LCA results are used to support engagement with external stakeholders to reduce the impact of materials and consumer care.
Life-LCA is a concept, developed by Görmer et al. (2019) and based on the classic product LCA method. It focus on human beings instead of products as a new study object. Life-LCA is a two-dimensional method that covers both, the human life cycle (dimension 1) and the life cycle of the consumed products (dimension 2). The approach raises the environmental awareness of people by making their specific environmental impacts comprehensively measurable and thus, tangible. Life-LCA applies the same impact assessment approach as the classic product LCA, based on several impact categories.
What is an impact category?
Emissions to the different compartments of the environment (water, soil, air) occur in each and every step of product’s life cycle. During the course of an LCA study, large amount of emissions data is collected: emissions from the raw material extraction, products manufacturing, energy and waste production, etc. These emissions come in different shapes and formats.
An impact category (or LCIA* category) groups different emissions into one effect on the environment. This is done by assignment of the emission results to the respective category (a step called classification) and calculating category indicator results by converting the emissions to a common unit with the help of characterization factors (a step called characterization).
An impact category groups complex data into accessible numbers – numbers that give a concrete picture of what the impact actually is.
*LCIA – Life Cycle Impact Assessment
// Overview of the
impact categories we use //
In the current LCA world, there are many categories that give indication on different impacts on the environment, as well as on the human health. They are in different state of methodological development, so their robustness differs as well. In our model, we stick to a limited number of categories that we consider as most scientifically-robust and relevant for our tool: