Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment

This course will introduce you to life cycle thinking as a concept and Life Cycle Assessment as an analytical tool to support environmental management.

Key facts

Cost: $450 + GST per person

Duration: 3 weeks

Delivery mode: Online

Time commitment: The course consists of three interactive one-hour Zoom sessions, held at 8.30 am on three consecutive Tuesdays. Two hours of additional learning exercises need to be taken independently during the course.


Sustainable consumption and production, the circular economy and carbon accounting … these topics are increasingly on the agenda for decision-makers. They all utilise a life cycle perspective to reconsider economic activities through a “cradle to grave” lens, meaning from the extraction of raw materials through manufacture, distribution, use and on to final end-of-life management. The quantitative analytical tool that supports this type of environmental management is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA methodology also forms the basis of related approaches such as carbon and water footprinting.

By the end of this course, you will be able to confidently commission an LCA study designed to meet the needs of a specific decision situation and be able to interpret its results to support decision-making.

Who this course is for

This course is for environmental managers, product designers, engineers, policymakers and other professionals interested in learning more about the role of LCA in guiding decision-making but without any prior training in LCA.

Course content and structure

Session 1: Introduction to Life Cycle Thinking (LCT)

This session will cover:

  • the role of LCT relative to other environmental management tools
  • the principles underlying LCT and LCA
  • an introduction to the functional unit and system boundaries.

Session 2: Life Cycle Assessment, a tool in the environmental management toolkit

This session will cover:

  • aligning the LCA with the goal of the study
  • the attributional and consequential modelling approaches
  • LCA methodology: the four phases of LCA.

Session 3: Use of LCA to support decision-making

This session will cover:

  • a critical review of LCA studies
  • making the most of your LCA study, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and certification schemes.

Meet your facilitator

Professor Sarah McLaren is the Director of the New Zealand Life Cycle Management Centre (NZLCM Centre) and Professor in Life Cycle Management at Massey University, New Zealand (NZ). Her research focuses on the development and application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and related approaches such as planetary boundaries, industrial ecology and the circular economy.

Sarah has promoted the uptake of Life Cycle Management in New Zealand as a founding committee member of the Life Cycle Association of New Zealand (LCANZ) and a member of the Technical Advisory Group of the Australasian Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) programme.

She has served on the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s Rethinking Plastics Panel, Ministry for the Environment’s Planetary Boundaries NZ Advisory Board, and represented NZ on the ISO Water Footprint Working Group. She works with organisations such as the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ), BEACON Bioeconomy Research Centre Ireland, and the NZ Food Awards to translate Life Cycle Management into practical action.

Professor Sarah McLaren

Professor Sarah McLaren

PhD, MSc, BSc(Hons)
Professor of Life Cycle Management, Doctoral Supervisor
School of Agriculture and Environment
Manawatū campus, Palmerston North


To register your interest, please email Fiona Bardell at

Contact information

 Fiona Bardell

Fiona Bardell

School of Agriculture and Environment

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