Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
LCA is a analytical tool for quantifying and characterizing the environmental burdens associated with a product life cycle. Research challenges involve large scale modeling of complex product systems, issues relating to data collection and uncertainty analysis, and interpretation and valuation of dissimilar results (e.g. MJ of energy, kg of solid waste, and kg of petroleum).
Life Cycle Design
Life cycle design is a framework for integrating environmental considerations into the development of products. Successful environmental integration often must be achieved within the context of shortening time to market cycles, more stringent regulations, and global competitiveness. The objective of life cycle design is to minimize environmental burdens across the life cycle while also meeting performance, cost, and legal requirements that influence the product system. The product life cycle encompasses raw material acquisition and processing, manufacturing, use and service, and end-of-life management. A multicriteria matrix has been developed to elucidate conflicts and tradeoffs between requirements.
Industrial ecology, which can be defined as the ecology of an industrialized society, seeks to understand the interactions between industrial systems, ecological systems, and societal needs. Material and energy flows driven by human production and consumption are traced throughout the economy and their ecological consequences characterized. A more sustainable relationship between industrial and ecological systems is guided by conservation of non-renewable resources, pollution prevention, and intergenerational and intersocietal equity.