Introduction to LCA

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The Introduction to LCA manual explains the basic theory of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). At the bottom of this article, you can download the free manual.

LCA is a tool for quantifying the environmental performance of products taking into account the complete life cycle, starting from the production of raw materials to the final disposal of the products, including material recycling if needed.

The most important applications for an LCA are:

  • Identification of improvement opportunities through identifying environmental hot spots in the life cycle of a product.
  • Analysis of the contribution of the life cycle stages to the overall environmental load, usually with the objective of prioritizing improvements on products or processes.
  • Comparison between products for internal or external communication, and as a basis for environmental product declarations.
  • The basis for standardized metrics and the identification of Key Performance Indicators used in companies for life cycle management and decision support.

LCA provides the quantitative and scientific basis for all these activities. In many cases, LCA feeds the internal and external discussions and communication. Being active in LCA means being able to communicate the environmental impacts of products and business processes. This manual provides an introduction to the LCA methodology and explains how you can carry out an LCA using SimaPro, the world’s most widely used LCA software.

How is this introduction manual written?

This introduction manual provides general information about the background of the life cycle assessment methodology, and provides suggestions on how to perform an LCA study. It can be read without having SimaPro in front of you. Chapters 2 to 5 describe the LCA methodology in general. Except from a few information boxes, these chapters does not make direct reference to the SimaPro software. Chapter 6 describes organizational aspects of LCA, while chapters 7 to 10 deal with the way you can model life cycles in SimaPro desktop.

Once we have introduced you to the most important concepts and the LCA terminology, we suggest that you start with SimaPro and experiment with the software. We have invested a lot of effort in developing helpful texts. If you want to know more, press F1 in the software to get help with the component you are currently dealing with. 

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