Successful design for the environment (DfE) requires the designer to understand the life cycle impact of design decisions. However, estimating life cycle implications of design choices using traditional process-based life cycle assessment (LCA) is typically too time- and resource-intensive to be practical as part of the design process. We examine the use of economic input-output life cycle assessment (EIO-LCA) as a tool to support sustainable design by helping the designer to quickly determine which aspects of the product dominate its lifetime emissions. Compared to traditional process-based LCA, EIO-LCA produces estimates at a more aggregated level using data on economic transactions and emissions from each sector of the economy. However, EIO-LCA computes full supply chain emissions associated with output from a particular sector in seconds, and for many products these aggregate-level data are sufficient to determine which aspects of the product dominate and to guide sustainable design efforts. We explore two product design examples where a quick scoping exercise with EIO-LCA identifies clear areas of focus for design improvement and innovation.

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