Expect folks to talk more and more about LCAs in the years to come. Most people will call this is a Life Cycle Assessment, but I have heard some change the "A" to "Analysis," so I've listed both as possible definitions here. But either as an Assessment or an Analysis, the result is the same-a look at the environmental impact of the entire life of the product. And generally, products that have a longer lifespan will get a better grade then something which has to be replaced every few years.

Some people will also call an LCA a "cradle to grave" analysis (or assessment!) since, again, you are looking at the entire life condition of the product-from the environmental "costs" of its birth to its final disposal. Factors considered in the birthing process can be how something is harvested, how it is processed (including factors such as energy use or waste generation), and then how long you can use it, the maintenance it requires during use and then, finally, how does safe/easy is it to dispose of in the end-or better yet, can it be recycled into something else?

LEED V4 plans to make increasing use of LCAs in determining compliant products, so best start getting familiar with it now. A few references can be found here:

www.americanhardwood.org/sustainability/life-cycle-assessment/

www.dovetailinc.org/content/life-cycle-analysis-environmental-product-declarations

www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/07/26/4-myths-green-product-declarations

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")