Teaching LCA-Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment - Carnegie Mellon University

Free New LCA Textbook

We are excited to announce that we are finalizing a general textbook on Life Cycle Assessment in late spring/early summer 2014 for use in fall 2014 courses.  It will be freely available in PDF format!  It includes material for an entire semester-long course on LCA at the graduate or undergraduate level.  It covers process-based, IO-based, and hybrid methods.  Graduate-specific content is added to ends of chapters as advanced material (e.g., Matlab demonstrations).  The emphasis on this book is on building quantitative models.  It is very much a textbook - it contains learning objectives, chapter summaries, and (drum roll..) homework questions in each chapter.  There are also running examples throughout the book that are cross-referenced and cumulatively improved throughout the book.  The book uses Excel, Matlab, SimaPro, and OpenLCA for demonstrations of managing data and building models.

The textbook will be augmented with a significant amount of web-based resources like presentation files, spreadsheet examples, Matlab code, etc.  All of the current digital resources anticipated with the textbook can be found at www.lcatextbook.com (sorry, the site is just a web folder on box.com for now but will soon have its own home page and directory).  There are folders for "PDF files of individual chapters", e-resources mentioned in each chapter, and Lecture Notes.  Everything should be quite easy to find - email Scott Matthews if you have suggestions or problems.

Draft versions of book chapters have been road-tested in several courses at universities across the US and Canada in 2013 and 2014, and feedback from these courses has led to significant improvements in the book.  We also expect to make periodic revisions and updates based on ongoing feedback from instructors (the digital nature of the book will make this easy).  We may also make print-on-demand versions of the book available.

Previous book on EIO-LCA

Our book on the theory and method of EIO-LCA was released in early April 2006, published by Resources for the Future (RFF) Press (including a low-cost paperback edition). You can order it from RFF or buy the hardback or paperback edition from Amazon.com.

For those of you familiar with this old book, to give some perspective, the new textbook has condensed nearly all of the old book's content into parts of 3 chapters.

Local and External Course Resources


While we are rebuilding and redesigning this part of the website to better organize our existing materials, feel free to visit the websites of two courses taught at Carnegie Mellon that teach LCA and EIO-LCA. These 2 courses utilize all of the learning activities, websites, and PowerPoint presentations we have made on the subject.

  • Technology and the Environment - taught by Deanna Matthews. This course is a technical elective taught to non-engineering students (mostly humanities and social science). The material is generally less quantitative, and geared towards describing environmental problems and helping students to understand how human activities influence them.
  • Life Cycle Assessment - taught by Scott Matthews. This course is taught primarily for graduate students in environmental engineering, but is open to undergraduate seniors in engineering with significant environmental coursework or experience. This one-half semester course is focused on LCA, including qualitative and quantitative assessment techniques.  Note this is a quickly-accessible version of the course, but is from spring 2006.  Our latest materials are all on the lcatextbook.com site mentioned above.