Chapter 5Introduction to Life-Cycle Assessment and Decision Making Applied to Forest Biomaterials

Jesse Daystar and Richard Venditti

North Carolina State University, Department of Forest Biomaterials, Raleigh, NC, USA

All models are wrong; some are useful

Albert Einstein

5.1 Introduction

5.1.1 What is LCA?

Demands on the earth's resources are escalating with increasing population and standards of living. These new demands are causing the increased extraction of raw materials harvested from the environment and emissions and wastes that are ultimately introduced into the environment. It is mankind's responsibility to actively search for the best solutions to meet the society's needs and to be the best steward of the planet.

For every demand that society has, there are an infinite set of possible solutions including different products, behaviors, and services to meet the demand. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive life-cycle approach that quantifies ecological and human health impacts of a product or system over its complete life cycle. LCA uses credible scientific methods to model steady-state, global environmental and human health impacts. It can provide quantitative measures of multiple environmental impacts that can help us to choose more sustainable pathways. LCA helps decision makers understand the scale and trade-offs of many environmental and human health impacts for competing products, services, policies, or actions.

There are many definitions of sustainability ...

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