Life Cycle Assessment within Biological Production Systems

Course content

Life cycle assessment is a multi-disciplinary methodology that is used to assess all the environmental impacts associated with the production of a product or a production system. The methodology is increasingly applied as an aid in political decision making and knowledge about the methodology is therefore highly relevant to students interested in environmental science and management.

The course covers general LCA theory:
1. Goal and scope definition
2. Inventory analysis
3. Life impact assessment
4. Interpretation of results

This includes important subjects like definition of functional unit, system boundary delimitation, allocation, system expansion, change-oriented versus accounting LCA, consequential versus attributional modeling. Impact assessment methodology and sensitivity analysis.

Special emphasis will be given to various environmental and resource conservation problems that arise in conjunction with products of biological production systems (e.g. crop production, energy crops, animal production, aquaculture, manure management). The students are also introduced to the concept of cost benefit analysis (CBA) and illustrative examples of CBA based on value transfer will be given.


MSc Programme in  Environmental Science

Learning outcome

The objective of the course is to learn the theory behind, and to gain experience with applying life cycle assessment to biological production systems. The course will teach the students the basic principles for conducting an LCA and to evaluate environmental impacts of biological production.

Upon completion of the course the students should be able to:

- Identify major environmental impacts of biological production systems - Show overview of the theory of life cycle assessment (LCA)
- outline the definition of scope, goal, inventory analysis and impact assessment - Describe how LCA can be used for improving production systems
- Reflect about pros and cons of LCA software.
- Summarize the transfer of LCA results to economic cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
- Describe alternative environmental assessment tools and their applicability

- Use LCA software and apply it to practical cases
- Apply LCA on different kinds of products of biological production systems - Analyse factors that influence the environmental impact of biological systems directly or indirectly
- Assess the conclusions in LCA-reports

- Discuss environmental problems associated with biological production systems
- Present an understanding of potential consequences of the results of an LCA
- Suggest improvements to biological production systems in terms of environmental impact with the aid of LCA
- Link LCA-outcomes with the CBA of economists and discuss the implications of this.

The course is divided in two major parts:

1. Introduction to the theory, principles and application of LCA;
2. Use of the acquired LCA competences in case-studies.

In the first part, the general theory of life cycle assessment will be presented in the form of lectures and exercises and the students will be acquainted with life cycle thinking. In addition, the students will get hand-on experience with LCA software and acquainted with the possibilities of its use through exercises. A case study and several small exercises will illustrate the principles relevant to biological production systems such as land use, eutrophication, global warming etc.

In the second part the students will conduct a more realistic case. An expert in the area will act as a client requesting a LCA, while the student will act as LCA experts carrying out the assessment. This will be done in study groups, but the students will each write an individual discussion of the results. This case will serve to illustrate some of the practical problems with LCA in more detail and train the use of LCA software. In addition, journals clubs will be arranged where relevant LCA studies are discussed as illustrateive examples of how to conduct LCA studies and how to report them.

Course material consists of a textbook introducing the general theory. In addition, illustrateive papers used and journal clubs will be part of the curricullum as well as notes on CBA which will be distributed during the course.

Basic course/background in environmental science

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.


Feedback through discussions during the group work on cases and  written feedback on case 1 report.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min.
Written assignment
The oral exam consists of 20 min. preparation time and 20 min oral examination. Oral examination is weighted 60%.
The written assignment - the individual discussion of case 2 - is weighted 40%.
An overall assessment of the individual discussion and oral examination is made and one grade is given.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner
Criteria for exam assessment

The assessment is based on the fulfillment of the learning outcome for the course in relation to the criteria in the 7-scale grading system

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 39
  • Project work
  • 93
  • Preparation
  • 44
  • Exercises
  • 30
  • English
  • 206