• environmental impact assessment;
  • industrial ecology;
  • LCA;
  • life-cycle assessment;
  • policy analysis;
  • risk assessment


Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a new method for exploring the environmental implications of human action. Like all methods, it is analytically limited and consequently it must be used with caution. Recent papers have criticized LCA and caution against its use in all but a few narrow applications. Even while accepting many of these arguments, this article argues that LCAs, like other analytic frameworks used in the policy and planning domains, have important uses in shaping the processes by which both products and policies are designed. The arguments made against the use of LCAs omit comparisons to realistic appraisals of alternative and competing methods of environmental assessment.