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Extended Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment


Admission requirements

Required course(s):
No prerequisites


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology used to assess the environmental footprint of products and services. It is widely used in science, industry, and policy making to guide decisions, e.g. on investments, policy instruments and technological development directions. LCA takes a lifecycle approach by covering the entire lifecycle of products and services, starting with raw material extraction and ending with recycling or end-of-life waste treatment. LCA is an increasingly important method to measure the actual contribution of technologies or business models for a circular economy. The Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University is one of the globally best known institutes in LCA method development.

Course Objectives

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the field of assessment of the impacts of economic systems, with a focus of life cycle assessment of products, and to develop related academic skills. More specifically, at the end of the course students are able to:

  • Get a good understanding of the LCA methodology.

  • Describe and discuss the main modeling choices in LCA that can determine LCA results or the ranking of alternatives in a comparative LCA.

  • Conduct a literature review, give a presentation and report on practical exercises regarding LCA using LCA software and data, thereby gaining practical experience in LCA and other scientific skills in general.

  • Perform basic LCA calculations.

  • Describe the position of LCA in the broader toolbox of Life cycle sustainability assessment, such as Material flow analysis, Environmental and economic input output analysis and Social LCA.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

We use a number of instruction modes:

  • Lectures

  • Assignments (both group and individual)

  • Student presentations

  • Discussions / debate

Assessment Method

Individual assignment (15%)
Group assignment (15%)
LCA project: Report + Presentation (40%)
Exam (15%)
Participation (15%)

Reading list

  • Guinée, J. (ed.) Handbook on Life Cycle Assessment – Operational Guide to the ISO Standards. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 2002 (PDF of the non-typeset manuscript will be made available).

  • Heijungs. R. and S. Suh. The Computational Structure of Life Cycle Assessment. Springer, Dordrecht, 2002 (PDF of the non-typeset manuscript will be available).

  • ILCD Handbook. General guide for Life cycle assessment - Provisions and action steps, General guide for Life cycle assessment – Detailed guidance. EU DG JRC IES, 2010,


Dr. Bernhard Steubing, Prof. Arnold Tukker, Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)


For conducting LCAs we will use the CMLCA software ( This software only runs on Windows. Apple or Linux users should make sure they can run MS windows. For tips on this see for example: (