back to all publications

Best practices for consistent and reliable life cycle assessments of urban agriculture

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
July 7, 2023

There is increasing interest in evaluating the environmental performance of urban agriculture (UA), primarily using life cycle assessment (LCA). However, LCA has been applied to UA inconsistently, making it difficult to confidently compare or draw conclusions from existing studies. This article outlines the key challenges of applying LCA to UA and recommends concrete steps to bring consistency and comprehensiveness to the topic. The research questions that LCA can address are framed before providing practical recommendations for performing LCAs of UA, considering several of its unique aspects that require special attention by practitioners. These include crop diversity, data availability, modeling compost, soil carbon sequestration, producing growing media, distribution of crops, and variability and uncertainty. Next, the article proposes future research areas that will benefit LCA generally and its application to UA, such as framing UA as urban green infrastructure, evaluating at the city scale, accounting for ecosystem services, and including social dimensions of UA. By following these recommendations, future LCAs of UA can be more consistent, comparable, and holistic, and will help build knowledge and inform policy-making and practices around UA.

Erica Dorr
Christine Aubry
Benoit Gabrielle
Arpad Horvath
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment

LCA guidelines

Urban agriculture


Social LCA

Ecosystem services


Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Erica Dorr, Benjamin Goldstein, Christine Aubry, Benoit Gabrielle, Arpad Horvath, Best practices for consistent and reliable life cycle assessments of urban agriculture, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 419, 2023. CSS23-36