LCA is a method for quantifying the impacts of a product, process, or service over its entire supply chain. Carbon, energy and water footprinting are well-known subsets of LCA.
Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is an established method for quantifying impacts - often environmental - of a product, process or service's total supply chain. This means looking not only at use, but also at production of raw materials (referred to as the cradle), processing and transportation, and eventual disposal (grave).
The LCA method has been formalized by ISO in the 14040 standards, and can include many different impacts, of which carbon-footprint, water footprint and energy footprint are the most well-known. Other impact categories include ecotoxicity, eutrophication, and various human health categories.
Related but separate fields include life-cycle costing and material flow analysis, which take a similarly wide perspective but a different method, and are used for answering different questions.
Questions with this tag should focus on:
- comparing possible options based on environmental impacts
- how impacts may vary depending on the supply chain choices - say, recycling paper vs. composting it.
- interpreting LCA study results
- performing simple LCA studies
Free software / tools
- OpenLCA: open-source software for conducting process-based LCAs, supports databases in EcoSpold or ILCD format.
- Carnegie-Mellon's EIO-LCA tool: free software tool for Economic Input-Output LCA
- CMLCA free tool that is intended to support the technical steps of the LCA procedure, specifically designed for students and scientists
- Greenhouse Gas Protocol Calculation Tools: Excel sheets for calculating the GHG emissions of various materials or activities.
- LCA Commons: open access to North America LCA datasets and tools
- The European reference Life Cycle Database (ELCD): LCI data from EU business associations and other sources for key materials, energy carriers, transport, and waste management.
- OpenLCA's Nexus: allows browsing other free (and paid) LCI databases
Free books / manuals / tutorials
- ILCD Handbook: guides and other documents aimed at more experienced LCA practitioners
- Textbook "LCA Quantitative Approaches for Decisions That Matter" written by Matthews et al. : learning to perform LCA aimed at (under)graduate students
- Online course How Green Is That Product? An Introduction to Life Cycle Environmental Assessment: teaches basic LCA concepts and provides home work assignments for practicing, the course is given once a year.