Introduction of life cycle assessment and sustainability concepts in chemical engineering curricula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The implementation of life cycle assessment (LCA) and carbon footprinting represents an important professional and research opportunity for chemical engineers, but this is not broadly reflected in chemical engineering curricula worldwide. This study presents the implementation of a coursework that is easy to apply, free of cost, valid worldwide and flexible enough to cover such holistic topics.
Design/methodology/approach: An analysis of chemical engineering curricula worldwide, a literature review and the implementation of a coursework case study are detailed. The latter combines practical exercises using free LCA software, oral presentations and debates.
Findings. The coursework goes beyond the calculation of results, giving the students key transferable skills to increase their employability like the capacity to negotiate/discuss in groups, software learning and development of critical thinking. The course is affordable and flexible, enabling adaptation to different sectors and engineering schools. One limitation is the challenge of ensuring robustness and consistency in marking, but this has been already improved with a more explicit rubric. The feedback of the students confirms these findings, including the learning of transferable skills as the major advantage.
Originality. This paper addresses, for the first time, the current state of ‘life cycle thinking’ teaching in the curricula of the top 25 chemical engineering schools worldwide, a literature review of previous experience, and a description of a novel coursework taking a theoretical and practical approach to LCA, carbon footprinting and socio-economic sustainability via free software and a comprehensive range of didactic activities.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

Related information