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What Cradle-to-grave (LCA) Means and Why You SHOULD Know About It

What Does 'Cradle-to-grave' Mean?
If reducing carbon footprint is in your interest, then cradle-to-grave is a technique which might help you in that process. This post explains the meaning of cradle-to-grave, and provides information about the process with a step-by-step explanation.
Vijith Menon
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Did You Know?
International atomic energy agency stamp
International Atomic Energy Agency Stamp
IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) approves of the 'cradle-to-grave' program, and implements it in the safe and secure management of radioactive wastes.
The manufacture of any product requires raw materials, processing the materials, distribution, maintenance, and disposal. Companies used to unceremoniously dump their waste anywhere, which would harm the environment. But with global warming, companies have adopted a way to implement unique methods into the manufacturing process which would maintain Eco-balance.

One of the methods designed to curb wastage of products is the cradle-to-grave method or Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The definition, in its simplest terms, it assesses the environmental impacts associated at each step of the product's life cycle, from its creation to disposal. In essence, it compiles an inventory of energy-releasing materials, lists the potential impacts, and interprets a result, so as to make an informed decision. It aims to provide a holistic approach to the production process.

There are 2 types of LCAs: Attributional LCA and Consequential LCA. Attributional LCA seeks to establish the burdens associated with a product at a point in the cycle. Consequential LCA identifies the environmental consequences of a decision that may have market and economic implications.
Life Cycle Assessment
Life cycle assessment
The goal of this cycle represents the making of the product and how it influences the other inputs and outputs. This step is highly important, as it can highlight different environmental problems and causes.
Inventory involves creating a list of materials necessary in the input and output of a product. The data can be presented in a tabular format to highlight any discrepancies that may affect the manufacture of a product. The list can be acquired by either a questionnaire or survey, and for brand-specific industries they are conducted by their own representatives. All the questionnaires involve the mass of a product or the energy expended in manufacturing it. This step is also known as Life Cycle Inventory (LCI).
Inventory is followed by impact assessment. This step evaluates the impacts it has on the environment. This is important as it selects the impact categories and the associated materials that go with it, and an impact measurement which calculates the overall impact of a product. Other elements of normalization, grouping, and weighting are considered before dividing them among the categories. This step is also known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
The last step identifies any problems, if any, and evaluates the information from the results of the 2 stages, i.e., LCI and LCA. The outcome is determined by understanding the accuracy of the results, and the way they contribute in completing the goal.
▶LCA is a tool which helps create a product which would have a longer life.

▶LCA is increasingly used by almost all industries to make their products recyclable.

▶LCA also helps in providing warning signs to the steps in the manufacturing process which may harm the environment.
Related Terms
In Advertising
The cradle-to-grave strategy in advertising includes targeting kids to convert them into loyal customers and carry the brand of loyalty with them to adulthood. This strategy has been effectively used by McDonald's and Disney, to target young audiences through movies which convince kids to buy their products. From Disney princess-inspired prom gowns and ready-to-wear Disney bridal dresses to gift cards for new mothers, Disney makes sure that their target demographic remembers their name.
In Marketing
The cradle-to-grave close is a marketing technique that convinces buyers to buy the intended product, despite having no intentions of doing so. The buyer's objections are brushed off by highlighting the strong points of the product.
Despite being a good program for environmental protection, not all companies can adopt this strategy. Therefore, they prefer variants of the same program, such as cradle-to-gate, which assesses the product's life cycle from material extraction to ready-to-distribution outlets. This strategy helps improve the business strategy and reduce production costs. Like the one above, there are many, like the gate-to-gate, that looks at value-added process in the production chain; and well-to-wheel, that looks at production to delivery of transport vehicles.

Overall, LCA is a pretty good program, approved by ISO 14000 environmental management standards.