Environnemental life cycle analysis is an internationally recognised approach for assessing the potential environmental and human health impacts associated with products and services throughout their life cycle, from “cradle-to-grave”, by:
- compiling an inventory of relevant inputs and outputs;
- evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with those inputs and outputs; and
- interpreting the results of the inventory and impact phases in relation to the objectives of the study.
The Canadian peat industry conducted an Environmental Life Cycle Analysis (eLCA) that covered the processes and activities related to the production, conditioning, distribution and end use of Canadian Sphagnum peat. The eLCA is based on business activities and operations that occurred in Canada in 2006.
Because peat is but one component of growing media used by greenhouse growers, nursery operators and gardeners, its environmental impact at the use stage is difficult to isolate from the whole. Peat interacts closely with other mix constituents as well as with other environmental components of the greenhouse or garden. Because of its very complex nature, the use stage was excluded from the eLCA.
Life cycle stages of peat moss production and distribution
Life cycle of horticultural peat moss
Results of eLCA
The life cycle analysis reveals that the transport of peat, mainly by truck, from the packaging facility to end clients has the most significant impacts on “human health”, “aquatic acidification” and “aquatic eutrophication” impact categories.
Regarding the impacts on “climate change” and “resources use”, the effect is more subtle. Peat decomposition at the end of life is the most significant impact in the “climate change” category, followed by peat decomposition in the non-restored peatland (in-situ decomposition). The CO2 emissions after closure of the harvesting site are greatly reduced if the site is quickly restored to a natural peatland state.
At the harvest stage, a significant portion impacts in all categories result from the use of motorized equipment: maintenance of ditches, site preparation and peat harvesting generate most of the impacts.