Solutions: Life-Cycle Assessments


  • Think about a product’s life-cycle impact before purchasing it. This ties into many solutions we’ve presented on other pages. Between meat, electric vehicles, and solar panels, there are loads of products out there that emit considerable amounts of pollution and GHGs during production/disposal. That doesn’t mean the negative will outweigh the positives every time, but it’s still important to perform a quick LCA [in your head or with research]. This would be easier if products had life-cycle information on them.
  • Buy smart. This is pretty much the same as the first solution, but with more emphasis on the easy decisions that make sense. For example, buying liquid detergent/shampoo/soap is less eco-friendly than their powdered/bar counterparts. The liquid products take up more space and are diluted with liquids – making them heavier for the amount of cleaning they can do. This translates into increased fuel costs during transportation, either by forcing freight vehicles to transport heavier loads or by forcing them to make more trips.
  • Tips for performing quick LCAs: What is the product made of? How resource/energy-intensive is the item’s production process? Does the product require loads of mining or logging? Where was the product made? The last one is more important for products that have high-impacts on ecosystems, like pastures in the Amazon – and for day-to-day products that need to be transported across the globe, like food.
  • Businesses: Inform the public of your products’ life-cycle impacts. We can’t expect individuals to make more sustainable purchases if they have no clue how polluting products are. Products need to show their impacts.
  • Governments: Tax or ban any product that isn’t transparent enough about its life-cycle impacts. This will help with the solution above, since certification agencies will have the information they need to be able to guide consumers toward more sustainable purchases.
  • Governments: Tax the highest life-cycle polluting products for each product type. For example, tax the companies that own the top 50% most polluting cars across the entire automobile industry. That will help companies compete against each other to get out of the top 50% polluters, instead of having them compete in a polluting race for the cheapest production methods. Obviously, this would take experts within independent organizations to perform studies for all types of products – but we can always start with the most polluting items for now.