Sustainability and life cycle assessment

This collection of resources combines presentations, videos and classroom tasks to support the teaching of sustainability and life cycle assessment.

In the new subject content for GCSE D&T, students should be able to select materials and components based on ethical factors, taking into consideration the ecological and social footprint of materials. 

Links and Resources

From Cradle to Grave: Product Lifecycles

This resource challenges students to produce a life-cycle assessment for a mobile phone and its packaging, and then to suggest improvements to the design and materials in order to reduce its impact on the environment.

Students assess materials acquisition, materials processing and manufacturing. The resource also introduces the ideas of cradle-to-grave, cradle-to-gate and cradle-to-cradle life cycle assessments.

publication year
2010 to date

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Where's the impact?

From Practical Action, this resource looks at life-cycle analysis and how it is used to work out the environmental impact of different products.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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System Reset: Design and Technology for a Circular Economy

These resources are all designed to introduce the principles of the circular economy. Before teaching the activities, it is recommended that teachers firstly introduce the concept of the circular economy using the introductory resources kit.

Constructed for use in design and technology lessons, any of the six activities can be used as a standalone resource, or they can be incorporated into schemes of work across a number of areas such as product design, graphics, textiles, systems and control.

publication year
2010 to date

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One Planet Packaging

These resources cover every aspect of sustainable packaging design. The slides and the case study are really useful for illustrating the core principles, and the resource sheets are equally useful as handouts for students, or background information for non-specialist teachers

publication year
2010 to date

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How to Save the Planet and Be Cool

This makes an amusing starter - In this Science Museum video, the Punk Science team show some of the changes needed to help prevent climate change, focusing on reuse, recycling and reducing waste. Many ways of reducing waste are shown in the form of a photo diary. The issues of food miles and vehicle emissions are also addressed.

publication year
2010 to date

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Six R's

This is a good starter activity to introduce the idea of the 6 Rs: rethink, reuse, recycle, repair, reduce and refuse.

Students look at the definitions and rank each of the Rs in terms of which contributes most and which least to making the world a more sustainable place.

Although the resource suggests giving students the sheet to cut out the definitions, this would not be a good use of lesson time. Better to have them cut out and laminated before the lesson, making them re-useable!

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Recycling and Sustainability

This booklet provides an overview of waste management, with particular focus on the different processes used in the recovery of materials from waste and on the end use of recycled materials. It also provides a practical introduction to the physics behind the processes used to separate waste materials, with activities and teachers notes

publication year
2000 - 2009

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The Paper Cup Company

Choosing between a polystyrene or a paper cup is more complicated than you may think!  This Dragons Den style resource is a great way to develop students' understanding of the ecological and social footprint of materials.

Paper cups have an environmental impact. Although the cups themselves are made from renewable resources (wood chips), paper cups actually consume more non-renewable resources in their manufacture than cups made of polystyrene foam, since converting the wood chips to paper pulp requires energy. During their life cycle, the only significant effluent of polystyrene cups is pentane. In contrast, the manufacture of paper requires several inorganic chemicals and creates large amounts of water effluents. Similarly, recycling polystyrene cups has less impact than recycling paper cups. Paper cups are, however, more biodegradable than polystyrene cups, with the caveat that in an anaerobic landfill paper cups will generally remain undegraded for a long time.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Less is more!

This resource gets students to look at how a product could be redesigned to require less packaging. Companies are being encouraged to develop ‘environmentally-smart’ retail packaging design.

In this activity, students are challenged to redesign a familiar product so that it has less (and more sustainable) packaging

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Bottle It - Re-use or Recycle?

These activities help students explore sustainable development and the difference between re-use and recycle.

The resources look at re-use (using a product or component for another purpose without any processing) and recycle (processing a waste material or component and using it in a new product).

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Product analysis: impacts on people and the environment

This resource from Practical Action includes a presentation and worksheets which give Key Stage Three and Four students opportunities to understand more about the impact of existing and new products on people and the environment. The presentation is packed with useful activities to reinforce students' learning.

publication year
2010 to date

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Textiles: Eco Design

Tom is the Creative Director for outdoor eco-clothing brand, Finnister. Their customers not only want clothing which looks good and performs well, but also which reflects concern for the environment.

In the film clip, Tom explains what eco-design means. He is always looking for new types of fabric which perform better than existing fabrics, but with a lower environmental impact.

Each material is evaluated to assess its total impact:

  • Is it from a sustainable source?
  • What chemicals, energy and other resources were needed to manufacture it?
  • How much transportation is involved?
  • Does it need extra chemical or physical finshed to meet performance requirements?
  • Is it biodegradable or recyclable?
publication year
2010 to date

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Design abacus

An eco-tool used to compare the sustainability of two products or design ideas

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Choosing Sustainable Materials

This film clip looks at a sustainable system of timber production and woodland management. It is explained that sustainability is the way in which the environment is managed, not whether trees are felled or not. Clear felling uses excavating machines to clear large areas of woodland at a time as part of an ongoing cycle of felling and re-planting.

It explained how designers can be sure that the wood they are using comes from a sustainably managed source, including what the Forest Stewardship Council logo means.

publication year
2010 to date

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What is the role of a designer?

This presentation and linked activities provide design and technology teachers with opportunities to highlight the different values and beliefs that designers may hold.

Students can engage in exploring their own values about the responsibilities of designers and companies too.

The powerpoint highlights the work of two designers Emily Cummins and Steven Hunt, both of whom have chosen to be involved in the development of technologies that 'make a difference to people’s lives'

publication year
2010 to date

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