Module DDL-4012:
Carbon Footprinting and LCA

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Organiser: Dr David Styles

Overall aims and purpose

This module is designed to provide knowledge, understanding and capacity to undertake carbon footprinting (CF) and life cycle assessment (LCA) for professionals concerned with the sustainable and efficient management of land resources. The key components of the global carbon cycle and greenhouse gas fluxes associated with agricultural production and the food and fibre supply chain will be reviewed. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of soils, ruminants, fertilizers, transport and energy consumption, with a focus on fluxes of CH4 and N2O as well as CO2. The range of international protocols for CF and challenge of determining appropriate emissions factors will be reviewed. The methods to identify emission hotspots within production and supply chains and to test alternative scenarios for their reduction will be addressed.

While concentrating on carbon and greenhouse gases, the coverage of LCA will also address the assessment of other key ecosystem services including regulation of water and air pollutants. Particular attention will be paid to the methods of assessment of the impacts of land use change.

Through lectures and structured learning with hands-on exercises and extensive on-line resources, the module will provide a theoretical and critical analysis of the practice and application of CF & LCA as key tools in assessing the environmental impact of land use systems.

Course content

The global carbon cycle and greenhouse gas fluxes associated with agricultural production and the food and fibre supply chain. The key roles of soils, ruminants, fertilizers, transport and energy consumption as sources of CH4, N2O and CO2 emissions. International protocols for carbon footprinting (CF) and determination of emissions factors. Methods to identify emission hotspots within production and supply chains and scenario testing. Life cycle assessment of carbon, greenhouse gases, water and pollutants, including the challenge of limitation of primary data sources, and reliability of secondary data.
Assessment of land use change.

Assessment Criteria


Be able to demonstrate knowledge of the principles of carbon footprinting and life cycle assessment (CF & LCA), their key components and how they are used to assess the environmental impacts of land use and food/fibre production systems. Be able to use guidelines to carry out simple CF & LCA analyses using data provided. Be able to interpret the outputs of CF & LCA analyses and draw conclusions about the relative impacts of alternative land use systems, to a descriptive level.


In addition to above, show appreciation of the limits of available data sources for LCA, the methods required to obtain primary data and the challenges of accessing sufficiently reliable secondary data. Be able to demonstrate an ability think critically about the assumptions in CF & LCA, including the key role of emissions factors and the practical implications of this uncertainty.


In addition to the above, be able to independently undertake a CF & LCA of a UK land use system and food production system, including the acquisition and utilization of appropriate secondary data, identifications of emission hotspots and scenario analyses. Be able to present well reasoned arguments for and against particular approaches to CF & LCA of land use and food production systems. Be able to critically appraise the potential management and policy applications of CF & LCA. Present clear evidence of wide reading around the subject and an ability to analyse and synthesise arguments and information.

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe quantitatively the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental burdens arising from livestock production.

  2. Describe the rational and procedures of carbon foot-printing and life cycle assessment (CF and LCA) showing knowledge of the main available tools.

  3. Calculate carbon footprints for key stages of livestock production, including manure management, fertiliser manufacture and application, feed production, enteric fermentation and carbon sequestration using IPCC methods.

  4. Critically evaluate the results of freely available carbon footprinting tools.

  5. Show a critical understanding of the application and role of CF & LCA in the improvement of the sustainability and efficiency of food production.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Discussion forum 30
Plan for LCA application 30
Carbon footprint exercise 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy


20 hours of lectures on CF & LCA principles and methodology.

Work-based learning

Carbon footprinting exercises


Online supported learning, including interactive sessions and on-line feedback.


Assessed and formative practical CF exercises.

Private study

Guided and self-directed reading


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Appreciation of the reciprocal nature of human-environmental relationships.
  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.

Courses including this module