What is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)?
As society becomes more and more interested in environmental attributes of products, those involved in all aspects of product manufac- ture, selection, use, maintenance and end-of-life disposal need definitive, scientifically based tools for evaluating environmental impacts and potential mitigation strategies. Environmental life cycle analysis, or LCA, has become the tool of choice for leading organizations in both the public and private sectors.
Sometimes referred to as “cradle to grave” analysis, LCA provides a mechanism for systematically evaluating the environmental impacts linked to a product or process and in guiding process or product improvement efforts. LCA-based information also provides insights into the environmental impacts of raw material and product choices, and maintenance and end-of-product-life strategies. Because of the systematic nature of LCA and its power as an evaluative tool, the use of LCA is increasing as environmental performance becomes more and more important in society. It is likely that LCA will soon become widely used within American industry and by those involved in crafting national and regional environmental policy.
What is an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)?
The private sector in the United States tends to pay less attention to environmental initiatives than its counterpart in Europe. It may, then, come as a surprise to many US manufacturers that international protocols for science-based environmental labeling of products are well advanced. The near-term likelihood of requirements for environmental labeling of exported products may also be surprising. Central to recent developments is something known as Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs – the increasing focus of governments and, in some cases, agencies that regulate international trade.
An Environmental Product Declaration, or EPD, is a standardized report of environmental impacts linked to a product or service. An EPD is based on life cycle assessment, which provides a basis for comparing environmental performance and substantiating marketing claims. Until recently, EPD development was limited to organizations associated with the 14000 series of standards within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the government agencies of several European countries. Now, the EPD concept is moving rapidly into the mainstream.