Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment: A Tool to Improve Analysis of Environmental Quality and Sustainability

EPA Grant Number: R826740
Title: Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment: A Tool to Improve Analysis of Environmental Quality and Sustainability
Investigators: Lave, Lester , Hendrickson, Chris , Garrett, James
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001 (Extended to September 30, 2002)
Project Amount: $290,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


Informed environmental policy analysis requires life cycle assessment (LCA) of products and processes. LCA is a systematic tool to estimate the environmental consequences of alternative materials, designs, manufacturing processes, product use patterns, and end of life alternatives. The predominant LCA method has extensive data requirements, making it expensive and time consuming, does not account for all the direct and indirect economic interactions, and requires proprietary data that rarely is available for review or replication.

We propose to continue the development of an LCA tool that is not subject to these limitations. Our Environmental Input-Output Assessment (EIO-LCA) method is inexpensive, easy to use, and fast. It relies on government databases that are publicly available. EIO-LCA calculates both the direct and indirect environmental implications of producing commodities. The major limitation of the current version of EIO-LCA is that it is restricted to the 500 sectors into which the Department of Commerce divides the USA economy. In this research, we will develop the tool to overcome this limitation. We further propose to make EIO-LCA accessible to all analysts via the Internet.


We propose six tasks in this research:

  1. Modify EIO-LCA to treat specific materials, processes, and products.
  2. Develop a method to disaggregate the 500 commodity sectors into specific products and processes and develop a matrix "edit" capability to perform "what if" calculations that change the production function and environmental discharges.
  3. Update and extend the EIO-LCA database using the most recent Department of Commerce input-output table and EPA environmental discharge data.
  4. Improve database coverage to improve data on the 500 commodity sectors.
  5. Create a World Wide Web site to make EIO-LCA available to EPA and other analysts. Analyze the use patterns of those accessing the web site.
  6. Develop an innovative interactive user manual for EIO-LCA.

Expected Results:

This research will provide the first LCA tool that is sufficiently cheap, quick, and reliable to be used generally. LCA information is crucial to informing public policy and private decisions regarding choices among competing materials, processes, products, use patterns, and end of life alternatives. The new EILCA will result in more informed decisions that enhance environmental quality and sustainability . We will make this tool available universally via the Internet.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 28 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 8 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Life Cycle Assessment, Input-Output Analysis, Sustainability, Environmental Discharges, Resource Use., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, life cycle analysis, policy analysis, cleaner production, sustainable development, environmentally conscious manufacturing, green design, emission control costs, decision making, computer science, cost benefit, computer generated alternatives, life cycle assessment, impact assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2001
  • Final Report