A life cycle assessment models the interaction between a product and the environment from its creation to its disassembly. The analysis is intended to provide a complete picture of environmental impact that the designer of a product might not otherwise be aware of. The outcome of this analysis might be the use of more environmentally-friendly raw materials, packaging, and production processes. The main phases of a life cycle assessment are:
- Goal and scope. Clearly define the context of the project and how the information will be used.
- Life cycle inventory. Create an inventory of flows from a product to the environment, of which there may be hundreds.
- Life cycle impact assessment. Evaluate the significance of the flows noted in the preceding step.
- Interpretation. Evaluate the information from the preceding steps, which may alter the design and content of the product under review.