In 2017, InSciTe and Maastricht University launched a course in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The course is unique in its kind, with a focus on biobased products and a non-expert target group of professionals from companies and PhD students with an interest in sustainability or environmental performance. The participants in 2017 all valued the course as highly relevant and helpful for their work; the number of participants for 2018 is already double that of last year.
The course was developed by Yvonne van der Meer, Associate Professor in Sustainability of Biobased Materials, and Achille Laurent, PostDoc lecturer, both from Maastricht University. Achille explains, ‘We had already performed an LCA study for the InSciTe project LA2AA. The project partners wanted to know the environmental consequences of upscaling the technology. This led to the idea of developing an LCA course.’ Yvonne adds, ‘The aim of the course is to provide participants with the competences to evaluate and interpret an LCA study. We provide an overview of LCA and use examples from the biobased field to show the strengths of LCA and the kind of results you can get. A large part of the course can be followed online.’
During the last session of the course, participants present a critical review of a published LCA study they have selected themselves. Achille explains, ‘It is very interesting to link the course to real case studies and realistic applications of LCA. Some students found this hard but we think it is the best way to apply your knowledge and show what you have learned. This part of the course is also important for sharing and collaborating with other participants. From my previous experience of LCA courses in Canada, I knew that this would work. I also tapped into my network to invite some lecturers to share their experience and expertise.’
How do Yvonne and Achille create an impact with their course? Yvonne explains, ‘One of our key messages is that biobased does not always mean an increase in sustainability. It is the aim of biobased products of course, but in order to establish actual sustainability, you have to measure and calculate the environmental impact of the product lifecycle as a whole. You have to understand where your biobased material is coming from, what you are doing to it, and where it is going. LCA makes you aware of this so that you can develop products and processes with a sustainability perspective in mind and sustainability information at hand. This will create a positive pull effect towards a more sustainable world. In future, this will only increase since our course has already attracted international interest from, for example, the European PhD network. In fact, the more impact we create with this LCA course, the less impact there will be from biobased products and processes on the environment.’