Sustainable Product Design: an LCA Approach

Instructor: Jeremy Faludi, LEED AP, Lecturer at Stanford University and Research Lead at Project Frog

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Are you spending your sustainable design and research money wisely? Are you greenwashing unintentionally? You cannot know what the best sustainability strategy is without knowing where your biggest impacts are, and you cannot set meaningful targets for improvement unless you know where you are now, and what is possible. How do you determine your product's biggest impacts, and thus your goals and metrics? Life-cycle assessment is far from being a perfect science, but it is the best tool available.
Once you know your biggest impacts, how can you reduce them? Life-cycle design provides these strategies. This course is aimed at lead designers and product managers.

Session Goal and Content

Students will receive a foundation in life-cycle assessment and designing for the life-cycle of a product, using several eco-design strategies such as dematerialization, energy effectiveness, design for longevity, and design for recyclability. We will not only describe the theories but also reinforce them with both conceptual and hands-on exercises. By the end of the day, students will be able to perform their own simple scoping LCA using Sustainable Minds LCA software and understand how to judge the relevance or veracity of published LCAs.

Fundamental Principles

  • Kinds of ecological impacts, and methodologies for comparing them
  • Key assumptions for an LCA
  • Boundaries
  • Lifetime
  • Functional units
  • Material/process equivalents
  • Interpreting LCA results
  • Sensitivity analysis


Performing Life-Cycle Assessment (theory and exercise)

  • Basic steps of the process
  • Performing analysis by hand
  • Software tools available and recommended 


Life-Cycle Design Strategies (theory and exercise)

  • Energy effectiveness
  • Reducing material use through engineering, durability, and expandability
  • Life-cycle dematerialization though takebacks and product-service systems
  • Design for Recyclability & Reusability


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Students can bring a product to analyze on site and learn hands on how the product can be improved from an LCA perspective. The product may not survive the analysis, so make sure to bring a used, broken or obsolete one.

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