Calculate to your LCA-Heart's Desire!
Industrial Design Consultancy has developed a simplified LCA tool that is available online for free to everybody and their brother! To estimate the carbon footprint and embodied energy of your product, the calculator guides you through a series of simple forms that cover the four stages of a product's life: extraction and manufacture, transport, use and disposal. You can see the results image above from the mock product that we entered in to the calculator. They also send you a .pdf document with more detailed results.Although it's very simplistic compared to a full-scale LCA, the calculator has a good number of fields for you to input material types, packaging materials, electronic parts, etc. Of course a full-scale LCA would look at all of the emissions and impacts not just CO2 and energy use, but this is a start at least.
The transport section allows you to put in the country it's made in and the country it will be distributed to, but there is no field to put the exact kilometres if you know them. They do the estimating for you, so it may tend to overshoot your transport impacts depending on your characteristics. However, that is not such a big deal given that sometimes we tend to underestimate the transport impacts of a product. Always better to overestimate an impact than to underestimate.
The other glitch that we encountered was when you click "next" for the next step, the screen comes up blank. This might just be our computer, but if it happens to you just click the refresh button to get the page you're looking for. It comes up without a problem.
Overall this little calculator is a great tool for designers to input and get simplified LCA results regarding CO2 and energy. Although they may not be 100% accurate or as detailed as a full LCA, they will be a useful tool in identifying stages of the life cycle with the most CO2 and energy use, which allows for design tweaking and improvement of products.