Environmental Life Cycle Assessment: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Environmental Life Cycle Assessment

1st Edition

By Olivier Jolliet, Myriam Saade-Sbeih, Shanna Shaked, Alexandre Jolliet, Pierre Crettaz

CRC Press

302 pages | 93 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2015-12-09
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Environmental Life Cycle Assessment is a pivotal guide to identifying environmental problems and reducing related impacts for companies and organizations in need of life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA, a unique sustainability tool, provides a framework that addresses a growing demand for practical technological solutions. Detailing each phase of the LCA methodology, this textbook covers the historical development of LCA, presents the general principles and characteristics of LCA, and outlines the corresponding standards for good practice determined by the International Organization for Standardization. It also explains how to identify the critical aspects of an LCA, provides detailed examples of LCA analysis and applications, and includes illustrated problems and solutions with concrete examples from water management, electronics, packaging, automotive, and other industries.

In addition, readers will learn how to:

  • Use consistent criteria to realize and evaluate an LCA independently of individual interests
  • Understand the LCA methodology and become familiar with existing databases and methods based on the latest results of international research
  • Analyze and critique a completed LCA
  • Apply LCA methodology to simple case studies

Geared toward graduate and undergraduate students studying environmental science and industrial ecology, as well as practicing environmental engineers, and sustainability professionals who want to teach themselves LCA good practices, Environmental Life Cycle Assessment demonstrates how to conduct environmental assessments for products throughout their life cycles. It presents existing methods and recent developments in the growing field of LCA and systematically covers goal and system definition, life cycle inventory, life cycle impact assessment, and interpretation.


"This is a very clear, comprehensive and well-structured textbook on LCA … The book covers all the main elements and issues of LCA and the scope is just right for people with intermediate or no LCA knowledge."

—Roland Geyer, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA

"This new book by Jolliet and colleagues will be a valuable addition to the existing LCA textbooks. It is presented in a very easy-to-read, lucid style making it useful even for beginners. However, it also contains the necessary information for advanced users. The coverage of topics is comprehensive and up-to-date. Starting from the very basic 'steps of LCA' which are clearly explained, advanced topics such as input-output analysis, uncertainty analysis and data quality are all covered. Examples, highlighting of key ideas and exercises at the end of the chapters add value."

—Professor Shabbir H. Gheewala, The Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, Thailand

"… the text is written in an easy to follow style… easy to read and contains pretty much everything that a newcomer (and a not so newcomer) needs to know to successfully conduct an environmental LCA. … and authorship by Professor Jolliet is in itself a credential for this book."

—Ivan Muñoz Ortiz, International Life Cycle Academy, Spain

Table of Contents


Priorities for the Environment

Critical Approach, Objectives, and Book Structure

Background and Standardization

Use of the LCA Tool

General Principles of Life Cycle Assessment

Definition of the Four LCA Phases

Performing an LCA

Characteristics Specific to LCA and Comparison with Other Environmental Analysis Tools

Simple Application: Comparing Different Types of Cups


Goal and System Definition


System Function

Functional Unit and Reference Flow

System Definition

System Boundaries


Inventory Analysis of Emissions and Extractions

Principles of Inventory Analysis

Process-Based Calculation of the Inventory

Inventory Databases for Process-Based Approach

Input–Output Approach for Extractions and Emissions Inventory

Coproducts and Allocation


Life Cycle Impact Assessment

Purpose of Impact Assessment

Principles of Impact Assessment

Application Example of the IMPACT World+ Method: Front-End Panel of an Automobile

Overview of the Main Impact Assessment Methods

Description of the Main Impact Assessment Methods

Future Developments



Interpret! Interpret! Interpret!

Identification of Action Priorities

Interpretation Example: Desktop versus Laptop Computer

Quality Control

Overview of Uncertainty, Variability, and Data Quality

Assessment and Mitigation of Uncertainty

LCA Software

Environmental Evaluation and Socioeconomic Evaluation


Conclusions and Key Points

Key Points of a Life Cycle Assessment

Limitations of an LCA

Potential Applications of an LCA


LCA through Example from A to Z: Treating Urban Sewage Sludge


Goal and Scope Definition

Inventory Results

Impact Assessment

Interpretation and Recommendations

Metacomparison of the Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Bio-Based Products


Methods: Meta-Analysis of LCA Studies

Results and Discussion





About the Authors

Olivier Jolliet is professor in life cycle impact and risk modeling at the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, University of Michigan. He is also one of the founders of Quantis-International, which provides life cycle assessment (LCA) expertise to companies and governments and is one of the two co-initiators of the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. Dr. Jolliet has been one of the pioneers in developing LCA and applying it to food sustainability and innovative technologies since the early 1990s, He has developed comprehensive Life Cycle Impact Assessment Methods, such as the IMPACT2002 method He has authored or coauthored 150 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

Myriam Saadé-Sbeih earned her PhD in environmental sciences from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2011, after working for two years in the Life Cycle System group of Professor Jolliet at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne. She is currently a research fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and since 2012 has been the scientific coordinator of a research program on the transboundary Orontes River basin, funded by the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency. Her research focuses on human–hydrosystem coevolution in uncertain contexts, especially in the Middle East.

Shanna Shaked is lecturer in the departments of Physics & Astronomy and Environmental Science at the University of California – Los Angeles, teaching LCA and physics. She serves on the UCLA Physical Sciences Undergraduate Education Committee to improve undergraduate teaching using evidence-based techniques. Sheearned her PhD in applied physics from the University of Michigan in 2011 after receiving her BS and BA in physics, astronomy, and mathematics from the University of Arizona in 2002. She received her MA in teaching from Ithaca College in 2013. She is passionate about making quality education available to all and helping more people assess the global impacts of their actions.

Alexandre Jolliet is a student in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, where he is studying political science and philosophy with specializations in political economy and development, political philosophy, and ethics. He spends his summers teaching courses to Spanish secondary school students preparing for their Cambridge English: First (FCE) exams at English Summer International Schools in Tarragona, Spain.

Pierre Crettaz earned his PhD in environmental engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne in 2000. Between 2000 and 2005, he worked as a senior scientist at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and was responsible for the registration of pesticides with respect to their human health effects. He obtained his MSc in applied toxicology at the University of Surrey in Guildford. He is currently the head of the biocides section at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. He represents Switzerland in committees on biocides and is responsible for the risk assessment of biocidal products.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Environmental Conservation & Protection
SCIENCE / Environmental Science