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Life Cycle Assessment Guide: Search Strategies

Resources on life cycle assessment

Search Strategies

Break down the search into categories that make up the inputs and outputs of the entire life cycle of the product in question, including transportation involved. This involves examining the entire product supply chain.

Stages of the product life cycle include: raw material extraction, processing or refining, manufacturing, assembly, product use, reuse, maintenance, and finally the end of life. The end of life includes the energy requirements and environmental wastes associated with disposing of the product or material.

For each stage, you can try to find articles, websites or books that discuss the product at this stage. In some cases, you may find an article, report or video where a researcher has already done an LCA for a product. Determine how to search by brainstorming a list of questions.


Possible Questions to Consider

Raw materials

What raw materials make up a product? How are the materials extracted from the earth? Mined? Harvested? How much energy is consumed in obtaining raw materials? How are they transported? What effects do these processes have on the ecosystem, environment, or health of local populations?

includes processing, refining, manufacturing, assembly

How are the raw material processed for use? Are the raw materials converted somehow? How are the products fabricated? Filled or packaged? Prepared for shipping or distribution? Do the products go direct to consumers, to a retail outlet, to a supplier to a vending machine, etc? Are there environmental impacts associated with product sales?

Use & reuse

What energy demands does the product have? Any wastes from product storage or consumption? Any maintenance (service, upkeep, or repair) needed to keep a product in use?

End of life or disposal

How much energy is involved in disposing of the product? What components does the product break down into? Are these components recyclable? Will the components decompose naturally? What is the rate of decomposition?

Find Books

Books on Life Cycle Assessment

Most of the time you will have to brainstorm, break down your product into components and assess them individually. A few search examples:

  • ("Raw materials" OR inputs OR "supply chain") and aluminum
  • ("recycling" OR ewaste) and computers

Find Articles

Find Articles Based on Subject