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Keywords:

  • education and training;
  • environmental assessment;
  • environmental education;
  • industrial ecology;
  • supply chain management;
  • sustainability assessment

Summary

Life cycle assessment (LCA) methods and tools are increasingly being taught in university courses. Students are learning the concepts and applications of process-based LCA, input−output-based LCA, and hybrid methods. Here, we describe a classroom simulation to introduce students to an economic input−output life cycle assessment (EIO-LCA) method. The simulation uses a simplified four-industry economy with eight transactions among the industries. Production functions for the transactions and waste generation amounts are provided for each industry. Students represent an industry and receive and issue purchase orders for materials to simulate the actual purchases of materials within the economy. Students then compare the simulation to mathematical representations of the model. Finally, students view an online EIO-LCA tool (http://www.eiolca.net) and use the tool to compare different products. The simulation has been used successfully with a wide range of students to facilitate conceptual understanding of one EIO-LCA method.