It is the university's competence in materials selection and ecodesign, which led to the material researcher Esa Vuorinen and the education designer Birgit Stöckel being involved in creating the course now distributed two years later via a digital learning platform.
– Packaging creates a large major environmental impact because they generate a lot of waste and are energy-intensive to produce. If we can reduce the amount of packaging and reuse more of the materials, it will benefit the environment and save resources, says Esa Vuorinen, Associate Professor at Luleå University of Technology.
The network-based MOOC course Ecodesforfood+ is the result of a two-year European project within Erasmus+. The focus has been on developing a multidisciplinary course on environmentally conscious design of packaging for the food industry and knowledge about how the environmental impact from using packages can be reduced.
– The target group for the course is professionals in the agricultural and food sector and those who design and manufacture packaging. The aim is to increase the knowledge and professionalism of the relevant professional groups regarding environmentally friendly food packaging. The course covers the entire chain from the farmer to the dining table, where different packages are used during the food's way to the final consumer.
The course is available in English, Swedish, Spanish or Greek and consists of seven modules. A module is required to pass on to the next and the total course is estimated to take 60 to 100 hours to complete. The degree of difficulty lies between high school and university level.
– We surveyed courses in Sweden, Spain and Cyprus, and saw that no education or courses cover the entire area from environmental impact assessment to material selection and eco-design with focus on food packaging. The course therefore fills a gap and I think it will contribute to a better environment as the knowledge of professionals in this area increases. Since before, we provide a course in materials selection and ecodesign for those who want to read this at university level, says Esa Vuorinen.
Partners in the project besides Luleå University of Technology have been the University of Zaragoza, the Research Institute of Aula Dei Scientific and Technological Park in Zaragoza and the Cypriot company Marketmentoro.
MOOC = Massive Open Online Course. A free online course that is available for everyone. It does not give college credits.