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Life Cycle Assessment




Admissions requirements



This course is an introduction to the field of product Life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA analyses all the environmental impacts along the full value chain of a specific product. This can help firms to uncover ‘hot spots’ with regard to environmental impacts and hence give clues how to improve the environmental performance of the product. LCA is also used to compare the environmental impacts of products delivering the same functionality for a user/consumer (e.g. using re-usable bottles for e.g. soft drink packaging, or one-way bottles that end up being incinerated as waste). Such comparisons often give rise to tense discussions, since the outcome of such LCAs may affect interest of companies making specific products. The Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University is one of globally best known institutes in LCA method development.

The course will give a description of the methodology of LCA of products, and place it in the broader context of economic-environmental system analysis. Within the LCA method, the following steps are discerned: – Goal and scope definition – Inventory analysis – Impact assessment – Interpretation

The course is divided in three parts. In part I, students learn about how to position LCA in the variety of tools that are capable of analyzing the environmental impacts of socio-economic systems (material flow analysis, environmental input output analysis, and life cycle assessment, jointly often framed as ‘Life cycle sustainability analysis’). Part II covers the Life cycle assessment methodology more in depth and forms the main part of the course. In part III students will do some practical exercises regarding LCA.

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:

  • Briefly describe the position of LCA in the broader toolbox of Life cycle sustainability assessment, such as material flow analysis and Environmental and economic input output analysis.

  • Define and discuss important concepts in the field of Life cycle assessment;

  • Describe and discuss the main choices in a practical LCA that can determine or bias the conclusion of a (comparative) product LCA.

  • Critically evaluate scientific publications or consultancy reports in the field of Life cycle assessment, and defend whether they agree or not with the conclusions made within the publication or report;

  • Conduct a literature review, give a presentation and report on practical exercises regarding LCA, thereby gaining experience in important scientific skills.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The main mode of instruction will center around lectures and discussions on current topics in Life cycle assessment and related Life cycle sustainability assessment tools. In addition, students are required to complete individual and group assignments, including performing practical exercises on LCA. To facilitate completion of these assignments, there will be some time set aside during lectures to discuss and work on assignments (the remainder of the work is conducted outside class hours).


Group assignment (LCA, questions), 10%;
Individual assignment (homework, written assignment), 10%;
Group assignment (LCA, written report and presentation), 25%;
Participation, 15%;
Final exam, 40%.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

  • Life cycle assessment: A tool for the Analysis of product systems. Chapter 12 pp. 224-231 in Boersema & Reinders, _Principles of Environmental Sciences-

  • An illustration of the LCA technique. Chapter 17A pp. 375-383 in Boersema & Reinders, Principles of Environmental Sciences

  • Life Cycle Assessment. A product-oriented method for sustainability analysis, Training Manual. UNEP-SETAC Life cycle initiative:

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

  • Additional reading material and assignments will be handed out in class our posted on Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Prof. Arnold Tukker,


In the course, we will use standard software such as Word (for writing reports) and Excel (for doing some calculations in assignments). We further will use LCA software of Leiden University’s Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), that runs under Windows only. People using computers with another operating system must ensure they either have a proper Windows emulation program on their computer, or ensure their computer is dual boot and runs Windows next to the standard OS.