Each student will select a topic and write a short research paper using a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) approach. LCA involves evaluating the environmental impact of a product through its life cycle, thereby encompassing extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, recycling, and final disposal. LCA is sometimes referred to as “cradle to grave” analysis.
Your topic should involve contrasting two (or more) comparable types of products (or potentially human activities) to assess the most sustainable option. For example, Keurig pods versus filter brew coffee, or cloth versus disposable diapers, etc. Energy generation is possible as a topic, but it is intrinsically an “up-level” to tackle this (more later).
In this assignment, you should write a balanced and quantitative account of the positive and negative consequences of the related human activity/product for both the environment and for human civilization.
“Balanced” means that you will explore the positive and negative aspects of the topic. For an “environmentally negative” activity or product (e.g., the Keurig), the negatives may be exaggerated in the popular news media, which you need to assess; likewise, economic or environmental benefits may be overlooked or downplayed. Similarly, the benefits of an “environmental positive” activity or product (e.g., cloth diapers) may also be exaggerated, while the costs are downplayed.
“Quantitative” means you will use numbers, graphs, charts and other tools in your discussion, not adjectives. Make sure that you consider and discuss each of the steps in the life cycle of the product (material extraction, manufacturing, packaging/transportation, use, and end of life), even though you may find that you can’t always obtain clear quantitative information for every one of the steps.
03-01 Lab: Assignment introduction, topic brainstorming, selection and signup
03-15 Lab: Bring rough 1st draft to the lab for peer review (me, TA + peers, Writing Centre)
03-18 Fri: Draft DUE (Brightspace upload; 11:59 pm) – comments back within 1 week
03-25 Fri: My feedback on your essay available
04-01 Fri: Final Essay DUE (BS upload; 11:59 pm; 10% off per day late; up to 30% off)
04-05 Lec: Student Presentations
04-05 Lab: Student Presentations
04-07 Lec: Backup Slot
DRAFT PEER-REVIEW (3%):
– bring rough 1st draft to lab for peer review (point-form; costs & benefits; references)
– Participate in Lab Discussion / Q&A / Critique session on 03-15
– clear point form outlining facts and arguments is fine (using references)
– draft is about organization of ideas rather than the polishing of final language
– minimum 4 pages double spaced,
– 8-12 references
– figures & tables
FINAL ESSAY (7%):
– 1500 words
– 6 pages text double spaced
– 10 pt font (Sans Serif, i.e., without serifs, or extra embellishments like in Times New Roman)
– figures and references are extra as far as page length is concerned
– 12 minutes presentation, with slides
– 3 minutes Q&A & transition to next talk
– The marks will be a 50/50 average of my assessment vs. the peer assessment.
PRESENTATION PEER-REVIEW (3%):
– attend all presentations
– formulate 1 written question for each presentation (more if you like)
– provide written feedback for each presentation: most enjoyable, most distracting (see below)
REFERENCING/CITATION STYLE TO USE:
In science, information is very often presented with the use of tables and/or figures. You may include your own summaries of information in tables or figures you create yourself, or use tables and figures from other works, with proper citations, e.g., “Fig. 1 This figure shows something critical to my paper and is a modified version of Fig 6b found in Jones et al., (2001).”