A limited life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed on a combined biological and chemical process for the production of adipic acid, which was compared to the traditional petrochemical process. The LCA comprises the biological conversion of the aromatic feedstocks benzoic acid, impure aromatics, toluene, or phenol from lignin to cis, cis-muconic acid, which is subsequently converted to adipic acid through hydrogenation. Apart from the impact of usage of petrochemical and biomass-based feedstocks, the environmental impact of the final concentration of cis, cis-muconic acid in the fermentation broth was studied using 1.85% and 4.26% cis, cis-muconic acid. The LCA focused on the cumulative energy demand (CED), cumulative exergy demand (CExD), and the CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) emission, with CO2 and N2O measured separately. The highest calculated reduction potential of CED and CExD were achieved using phenol, which reduced the CED by 29% and 57% with 1.85% and 4.26% cis, cis-muconic acid, respectively. A decrease in the CO2eq emission was especially achieved when the N2O emission in the combined biological and chemical process was restricted. At 4.26% cis, cis-muconic acid, the different carbon backbone feedstocks contributed to an optimized reduction of CO2eq emissions ranging from 14.0 to 17.4 ton CO2eq/ton adipic acid. The bulk of the bioprocessing energy intensity is attributed to the hydrogenation reactor, which has a high environmental impact and a direct relationship with the product concentration in the broth. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2011; 108:1298–1306. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.