The most important concept in LCA is that of Life Cycle. To get an understanding of the impact of a product, we must look at the complete picture, and follow it from the early beginning (when its materials are extracted), through manufacturing, distribution, use and end of life.
Basically, we need to account for every impact in nature, because of the existence of that product or service. To do that, we build a model of the product's life cycle. And we break it down in smaller pieces. And we find information from those smaller pieces.
In this section, you will be able to read about how we apply Life Cycle Assessment in our calculations.
The science of Life Cycle Assessment
Life cycle assessment or LCA (also known as life cycle analysis) is a methodology for assessing environmental impacts associated with all the stages of the life cycle of a commercial product, process, or service. Read more about Life-cycle assessment on Wikipedia.
Functional unit in Earthster
In Life Cycle Assessment, the functional unit is the output(s) of the life cycle and how they are defined. The function is delivered by the life cycle, and most of the time by the use phase. The purpose of the functional unit is to make things comparable.
Earthster lets you define multiple analogous units for a given cycle. That means that you define different ways of measuring the output of your cycle.
The simplest functional unit is just how many products you are measuring the impact of.
Functional units measure the functional output of the cycle. They measure the benefits delivered by the product, in a way that will make the results comparable.
Life Cycle Assessment literature often conflates all of the terms above (production unit and functional unit) into the term "functional unit". You can still use that naming, but we encourage you to take a functional approach (the intent behind ISO defining functional units) in those.
Earthster's standard subscription plans come with 5 impact categories from the impact method called ReCiPe 2016 from RIVM in its hierarchist perspective.
The 5 main impact categories (ReCiPe 2016 Endpoint/H) available to every user
Damage to ecosystems
Damage to human health
Damage to resource availability
Other available impact methods and their categories
With a full Ecoinvent license you get access to additional impact categories.
ReCiPe 2016 is a harmonized life cycle impact assessment method at midpoint and endpoint level developed by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
EF 3.1 impact method has been developed by the European Commission for measuring the environmental performance in a unified way under the PEF/OEF methodology.
TRACI 2.1 is an environmental impact assessment method developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The IPCC 2021 impact method follows the latest guidelines for the quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from the 6th assessment report (AR6), dated from 2021.
LCA methodology and ISO standard
You can model any product, service or activity through cycles, which represent the whole life cycle of a product. The results can be downloaded as a json or csv file.
Earthster allows modeling LCAs with multiple production and functional units which allows better comparability and following any PCR requirements. LCAs created with Earthster can be utilised for any type of reporting and environmental declaration , including EPD purposes.
With a full Ecoinvent license users can download the datasets required for PEF.