Carnegie Mellon University

EIO-LCA:  Free, Fast, Easy Life Cycle Assessment

The Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA) method estimates the materials and energy resources required for, and the environmental emissions resulting from, activities in our economy.  The EIO-LCA method was theorized and developed by economist Wassily Leontief in the 1970s based on his earlier input-output work from the 1930s for which he received the Nobel Prize in Economics.  Researchers at the Green Design Institute of Carnegie Mellon University operationalized Leontief's method in the mid-1990s, once sufficient computing power was widely available to perform the large-scale matrix manipulations required in real-time.  This website takes the EIO-LCA method and transforms it into a user-friendly on-line tool to quickly and easily evaluate a commodity or service, as well as its supply chain.  The results from the EIO-LCA model and this website are free for non-commercial use and may not be used in other derivative works or websites without permission.

Results from using the EIO-LCA on-line tool provide guidance on the relative impacts of different types of products, materials, services, or industries with respect to resource use and emissions throughout the supply chain.  Thus, the effect of producing an automobile would include not only the impacts at the final assembly facility, but also the impact from mining metal ores, making electronic parts, forming windows, etc. that are needed for parts to build the car. 

The EIO-LCA models available on the site apply the EIO-LCA method to various national and state economies.  Each model is comprised of national economic input-output models and publicly available resource use and emissions data.  Since its inception in 1995, the method has been applied to economic models of the United States for several different years, as well as Canada, Germany, Spain, and select US states.  The on-line tool has been accessed over 1 million times by researchers, LCA practitioners, business users, students, and others.  

Life cycle assessment, using the EIO-LCA method and on-line tool, as well as other LCA methods, is a major research focus for the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  Over the past 15 years, our group has investigated numerous products, services, and infrastructure systems using LCA as a fundamental component of analysis, becoming a leading research group in the field.  GDI researchers and students have produced numerous LCA studies using a wide range of LCA techniques resulting in over 100 publications on the topic. Scott Matthews CMU