About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 130-141
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
In recent years concerns about the climate change, increasing pressure on natural resources and environmental pollution have all brought sustainable development to the top of the political, social and business agenda. There are increasing legal, market and financial pressures on manufacturing industries to develop sustainable products. Sustainable development requires methods and tools to measure and compare the environmental impacts of human activities for the provision of goods and services to our society.

Life Cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodology for evaluating the environmental load of products during their life cycle. Direct applications of LCA include product development and improvement, public policy making and marketing. LCA can be applied by decision makers in industry and policy, product developers and environmental managers. Teaching within LCA and life cycle thinking takes place in curricula of short and long term higher education for designers, engineers, environmental managers, etc.

LCA comprises 4 phases:
• Defining of objectives and scope
This is the initial phase, being in fact a determination of the “functional unit” and the system boundaries.
• Inventory analysis
This analysis quantifies all input and output data connected with the product “life cycle” of the functional unit starting with the design of the product, followed by resource extraction, production, use, and finally end-of-life activities (collection, reuse, recycling, waste disposal). All activities, or processes, in a product’s life result in environmental impacts due to consumption of resources, emissions of substances, etc. The result of this stage is an inventory table (LCI).
• Impact assessment
The first step, classification, is the assignment of the LCI results to a selection of impact categories (climate change, ozone depletion, smog creation, acidification, toxicological stress, depletion of resources, etc.)
In the second step, characterization, the LCI data are converted into quantified contributions to impact categories resulting in a single number for each impact category.
• Evaluation and interpretation
The evaluation aims to aggregate impacts into one final eco-indicator.The interpretation identifies significant issues, evaluates findings to reach conclusions and formulates recommendations.

Performing an LCA is time intensive and the choices made during system modeling, especially with respect to the system boundaries and what processes to include, are often decisive for the result of an LCA study. The outcomes of an LCA have to be analyzed in a critical way, especially if they are used for business decisions and policy making. Different scenarios have to be studied.

LCA-software tools are developed to make the processing and calculations easier en faster. SimaPro5 is applied in the course “Environmental technology”. This LCA-software tool can be used in the evaluation of different products and is also applied in waste management. For both we developed a case study. The First one deals with an adapted version of an existing case treating alternatives of an consumption good. The second one investigates different disposal scenarios for paper and board. This is done in combination with the report “Best available techniques in the pulp and paper industry” from the European Commission. Both cases are subject of workshops where the students work in teams in order to get a better insight in LCA critical evaluation.
lca, teaching methods, sustainable development.