Using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to Determine the Carbon Footprint of Trees during Production, Distribution and Useful Life as the Basis for Market Differentiation Academic Article uri icon


  • Life cycle assessment (LCA) has been used to analyze the impact of input materials and equipment use on the global warming potential (GWP) of production system components of field-grown trees in the U.S. Midwestern states. GWP of container system components in the Western U.S. has also been studied. The resulting carbon footprint (CF) of these trees at the farm gate and transplanted into the landscape can be used to increase production system efficiency and decrease the GWP impact of the product. Reported propagation-to-landscape CF for field-grown 5-cm caliper, spade-dug trees have ranged from 8.3 to 13.6 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent. Equipment use at harvest was a major component of CF. Transport distance of the finished tree was also important. Knowledge of the positive impact of trees in the landscape through carbon sequestration, as well as the CF at the farm gate and planted into the landscape, can be the basis for differentiating products in the marketplace relative to such environmental issues. Management practices that minimize CF were identified and such information could be critical to purchasing decisions based on environmental issues. In marketing, product differentiation is the process of distinguishing the differences of a product from others to make it more attractive to a particular target market. This is done to demonstrate the unique aspects of the product and create a sense of value. Industry participants can utilize these CF findings in developing marketing programs for plant material targeted specifically at the consumer segments identified as environmentally conscious. This research will benefit the green industry consumer by ensuring that environmentally friendly products marketed to them in the future truly meet their "sustainability" needs and/or expectations.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Ingram, D. L., & Hall, C. R.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Ingram, DL||Hall, CR

publication date

  • January 2015