A life-cycle assessment [LCA] is an essential tool that can help us get a full understanding of a product’s impacts on the environment. During production, transportation, use, and disposal, an LCA helps evaluate the product’s total GHG emissions, toxic pollution, resource exploitation, energy consumption, and impacts on biodiversity.
An LCA can help everyone make better decisions. Of course, individuals can’t start a scientific study for everything we buy, but we can always run a quick mental check to evaluate our next purchase’s impacts. There are some intangibles that can help us determine a product’s impacts, like the fact that fossil fuel consumption and mining have negative effects on the environment. Governments and companies will have to find ways to communicate a product’s LCA impacts to consumers.
In general, it’s important to remember that a product can have significant impacts during all stages of its life-cycle, so there’s more to it than just the apparent ‘eco-friendliness’ during use.