Final Report: 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


The objective of this research project was to continue the development and application of Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Analysis (EIO-LCA), which had been developed at Carnegie Mellon in the mid-1990s. This tool is inherently inexpensive, easy and quick to apply, and noncontroversial because it does not require drawing arbitrary boundaries or rely on confidential data.

Specifically, we proposed to update and extend EIO-LCA’s database of environmental discharge data by economic sector, consider more detailed disaggregations involving expanding the matrix to include detailed materials or products (e.g., specific alloys or resins), and explore ways to improve the coverage of the databases (e.g., expanding the Toxics Release Inventory to all sectors and considering imports). Most notably, we proposed the creation of a Web-accessible version of EIO-LCA to make it available to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and analysts throughout the world.

This research contributes to understanding life cycle analysis (LCA) and the effects of materials, products, and processes on the environment and sustainability. This project also provides environmentalists and policy analysts with an LCA tool that enhances their ability to examine the environmental and sustainability implications of substituting materials, changing the designs for products, adopting new processes, and promulgating new policies.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

During the term of the agreement, we fulfilled the task objectives. Most notably, we updated all environmental flow data to 1997 baselines (the most current available), demonstrated that sectors of the EIO-LCA model could be disaggregated into other sectors, and these more disaggregate sectors could be used to refine the analysis. In the future, such effort can aid hybrid LCA model development. Probably the most significant outcome of the agreement is that the EIO-LCA model was made available on the Internet in 2000. In the subsequent years, more than 100,000 users from more than 50 countries used the model. EIO-LCA is now the most widely used LCA tool in the world. It is being used in undergraduate and graduate education at Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, Michigan, Michigan Tech, Texas-Austin, Ohio State, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. We will seek to further refine the model and the educational outreach program in future years.


Input-output based life cycle assessment remains a powerful alternative to process-based methods. The academic and professional community is embracing it as a platform for better understanding environmental impacts across the life cycle. As the environmental and LCA communities transition to hybrid methods, input-output based models will represent a significant component of such work. EPA’s consideration of input-output based life cycle assessment as a model worthy of investment seems to have paid off with large returns.

Journal Articles on this Report : 8 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 28 publications 10 publications in selected types All 8 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Chen L, Li Z, Li C-J. Indium-mediated domino reaction of nitroarenes with 2,3-dihydrofuran in water: an efficient synthesis of 1,2,3,4-tetrahydroquinoline derivatives. Synlett 2003;(5):732-734. R826740 (Final)
R828129 (2002)
  • Abstract: Wiley-Abstract
  • Journal Article Matthews HS, Lave LB. Applications of environmental valuation for determining externality costs. Environmental Science & Technology 2000;34(8):1390-1395. R826740 (Final)
  • Full-text: ACS-Full Text
  • Abstract: ACS-Abstract
  • Other: ACS-Full Text PDF
  • Journal Article Matthews HS, Small MJ. Extending the boundaries of life-cycle assessment through environmental economic input-output models. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2000;4(3):7-10. R826740 (Final)
  • Abstract: Wiley-Abstract
  • Journal Article Matthews HS, Hendrickson CT, Horvath A. External costs of air emissions from transportation. Journal of Infrastructure Systems 2001;7(1):13-17. R826740 (Final)
  • Abstract: ASCE-Abstract
  • Journal Article Matthews HS, Hendrickson CT. The economic and environmental implications of centralized stock keeping. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2002;6(2):71-81. R826740 (Final)
    R829597 (Final)
  • Full-text: Wiley-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Wiley-Abstract
  • Journal Article Matthews HS, Lave L, MacLean H. Life cycle impact assessment:a challenge for risk analysts. Risk Analysis 2002;22(5):853-860. R826740 (Final)
  • Full-text: Semantics Scholar-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Wiley-Abstract
  • Journal Article Matthews HS. Use versus manufacture life cycle electricity and environmental impacts for computer tape drives. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 2002;36(3):187-196. R826740 (Final)
  • Full-text: ScienceDirect-Full-Text HTML
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Other: ScienceDirect-Full-Text PDF
  • Journal Article Matthews H, Hendrickson C, Soh D. Environmental and economic effects of e-commerce: a case study of book publishing and retail logistics. Multimodal and Marine Freight Transportation Issues 2001;1763:6-12. R826740 (Final)
  • Abstract: TRR-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    life cycle analysis, life cycle assessment, sustainability, input-output analysis, environmental discharges,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, life cycle analysis, policy analysis, cleaner production, environmentally conscious manufacturing, green design, sustainable development, decision making, emission control costs, computer science, cost benefit, computer generated alternatives, impact assessment, life cycle assessment

    Relevant Websites: Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2001