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The environmental life cycle of a product consists of all the stages, from raw material extraction through production and use to waste management. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), then, is the assessment of the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle. The holistic perspective that LCA provides on the environmental performance of products has made it a central concept for both environmental management in industry and environmental policy-making in public government. This is a textbook on LCA for those who want to learn the practice of LCA, e.g. environmental engineers, environmental managers and eco-designers. The title paraphrases Douglas Adams' famous story "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy", in which the machine Deep Thought after seven and a half million years of computing come up with '42' as the answer to the 'great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything'. Expectations on LCA are often similar - simple answer to difficult environmental dilemmas, and the result often as incomprehensible as 42, unless one knows how to interpret LCA methodology and results. The book is organised in three parts covering LCA methodology, LCA applications and exercises on LCA. Two introductory chapters give a general overview of the LCA concept and its historical development. After that, LCA methodology is described in detail in six chapters. Different fields of LCA application are covered in five subsequent chapters. Since the aim of the book is to teach the execution of LCA, there are also a number of exercises. Smaller exercises train different aspects of LCA methodology and prepare for the larger ones, ten complete LCA exercise projects.
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