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Technology
  • Extracting Gold and other natural resources from the Earth
  • Manufacturing
  • Transport
  • Disposal and Waste

Technology — Environmental Consequences of Product Design

"But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself." — Rachel Carson

When Rachel Carson wrote and published Silent Spring in 1962, she triggered the American environmental movement, one which continues through modern day and demands cleaner air, water, soil, and food for all. As engineers, we may be bound by the laws and regulations that have emerged from the environmental movement as environmental constraints to our designs, but our attention to the other environmental consequences often play second fiddle to other corporate concerns.

Engineers are central to the endless creation of more stuff in our society. Much of the stuff we design benefits society. But, much also causes harm to the environment and does so in ways that are very difficult to see from the confines of a design team or corporate work environment. The Story of Stuff, released in 2007, provides a fast paced and engaging overview of the many costs to the environment posed by the many types of stuff we deliver to consumer markets.

While engineers have played a central role in consuming the planet's natural resources, polluting the world's waterways, contaminating the air, producing a myriad of chemicals with complex and largely unknown health impacts, and promoting even greater rates of consumption, engineers are also in a unique position to make tremendous strides to lessen these environmental consequences to the planet.

Join us as we take a look at the complex web of environmental consequences that emerge from the production of stuff with special attention to how an engineer in any situation (whether corporate, government, or academic) can make a difference every day to reduce and alleviate these impacts.

Know more:

Environmental Consequences of Product Design — An Introduction
Environmental Consequences of Product Design — Natural Resource Extraction
Environmental Consequences of Product Design — Manufacturing
Environmental Consequences of Product Design — Transport
Environmental Consequences of Product Design — Product Use
Environmental Consequences of Product Design — Disposal & Recycling

Acknowledgements:

This work has been conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (DUE-1245464).