Ministry of Environment

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Using life cycle assessment to evaluate the sustainability of British Columbia's forest-based economy

Author(s) or contact(s): L. Mahalle, C. Dymond, S. Berch, C. Bulmer, S. Tedder, B. Titus, and M. Todd
Source: Ministry of Environment
Subject: Socio-Economics
Series: Technical Report
Other details:  Published 2016. Hardcopy is available.


There is a growing interest world-wide in an economy more firmly based on bioenergy and bioproducts (i.e., the bioeconomy). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the standard approach for evaluating environmental effects of bioeconomic activities, and therefore is a key component of product certification, market acceptance, and policy development. Given the importance of LCA as an evaluation tool, we provide an overview of LCA principles and methodology with respect to the wood-based bioeconomy in British Columbia, Canada and discuss the evolving efforts within the LCA community to address questions of carbon footprints, land-use change, soil productivity, and biodiversity. Considering the integration among global, national, and local bioeconomies, we conclude that opportunities to benefit from British Columbia's significant biomass resource would be furthered if LCA approaches are developed and incorporated into planning, investment, and decision making. Furthermore, British Columbia's highly regarded forest management regime provides a starting point for evaluating sustainability, but additional information would be needed to carry out the types of assessments that are needed within LCA. A co-ordinated effort by government, academia, and industries who participate in the bioeconomy to explore life cycle thinking would encourage the development of expertise with LCA techniques and improve Life Cycle Inventory databases.

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Updated December 28, 2016