Frequently Asked Questions
Life Cycle Assessment (also known as life cycle analysis, or cradle-to-grave analysis) is a method of assessing environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product's life. For example, it measures impact from raw material extraction to materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. The goal of LCA is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services by quantifying all inputs and outputs of material flows, and then assessing how these material flows impact the environment. This information is used to improve processes, support policy, and provide a sound basis for informed decisions.
The LCA Commons is a digital home for the aggregation, description, and standardization of LCA data. Our most-used resource is the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) database, which is based on the openLCA schema, and a DKAN data catalog and archive. DKAN is an open source, open data platform with a full suite of cataloging, publishing, and visualization features that allow organizations to easily share data with the public. Therefore, users may submit and access LCA-related data that are not necessarily formatted for an inventory database.
You may enter the LCI database on the LCA Commons homepage, select the unit processes you wish to download, select the "Downloads" button, and then proceed to the download page. On the download page you may select the format in which you wish to download data. You will then receive an e-mail in which you can access your query and download the data.
Your download will be a zipped file that includes the XML, JASON-LD, or excel formatted processes which you have requested. These files can be easily imported into openLCA software (not the excel format) or imported into other commercial tools with some level of effort.
Data dictionaries are used to explain information about a dataset or database, such as the names of measured variables, their data types or formats, and text descriptions. A data dictionary provides a concise guide to understanding and using the data. Ideally, all LCA datasets should include or point to a data dictionary. It is preferred that these data dictionaries be machine readable.
If your data are managed in a standard relational database you will likely be able to generate a data dictionary through your software. This will provide a document that is consistently formatted and contains most of what is needed for others to understand your data. If your data are managed in spreadsheets, text files, or comma separated values, you will need to manually prepare a data dictionary. To support machine-readability, we recommend preparing your data dictionary as a spreadsheet. Click here to view a separate document that provides guidelines, examples, and a blank template for creating a data dictionary.
Data can be submitted two ways. They can be submitted to the LCI database, or to the Agricultural LCA Data and Tools Catalog. Submitting to the LCI database:
As we continue to build capacity for an automated submission process, our current process is still "manual" in that it requires that we work together to curate and edit your data iteratively. We will help you to document and format your data and we will need your help to verify elements of documentation and nomenclature as we move toward a final submission.
1. Start the process by contacting us through our "Contact Us" form in the menu (we will arrange a time to discuss your needs and review the process before we begin)
2. Review our submission guidelines
3. Document and format your data
4. Collaborate with us through curation process
5. Submit data through "Submit Data" on the LCI database discovery page
6. Complete the submission application
Submitting to the Agricultural Data and Tools Catalog.
1. Enter the LCA Collection on Ag Data Commons through <a href="https://data.nal.usda.gov/life-cycle-assessment">Agricultural Data and Tools</a> on the homepage
2. Log-in or register for the Ag Data Commons in the upper right hand corner
3. Select "Submit Dataset" menu item
4. Complete submission form and upload dataset (a detaset is called a "resource" in the Ag Data Commons).
Please contact us with questions though the "Contact Us" page. The Ag Data Commons is also developmnetal. If you encounter problems, we would like to hear about them as soon as possible.
Formatting data to be distributed through the LCA Commons LCI database requires time and effort. If you have developed unit process data that are widely applicable, it might be worthwhile to format and submit it to the LCI database. If your LCI data are for a very specific processes that might not be widely applicable, but the results or methods might be valuable for the domain, the Data and Tools Catalog might be a more appropriate place to put them. Generally, data that represent national, regional, or state level processes might be appropriate for the LCI database.
If you would like to discuss this further, please contact us
The Federal LCA Commons is an unfunded collaboration among Federal agencies that are involved with life cycle assessment on some level. The ultimate objective of this concept is to bring together data developed through the specific missions of various agencies to assemble components of a background data set for applicable sectors of the U.S. economy.
Initially, the Federal Commons will be a data catalog and archive built on the DKAN platform. This development has not yet begun. In the meantime, the Federal Commons is simply a web page with links to our Federal partners sites.