Portfolio Part 5: Relating Sustainability to Engineering

I think what this major taught me more than anything, was how to think. Not in a brainwashing kind of way, but how to think.  How to analyze, criticize and improve… well basically anything. As an engineer, my job is to evaluate a situation and produce a solution; such as how to remove produced solid waste from communities. The “best” solution would just to throw it away, put it in a landfill and then cap it. But what are the less obvious environmental burdens associated with this project, this landfill and this trash? How would this affect the local communities’ environmental services? Who would this impact? Does this disproportionally effect minority and vulnerable communities? What are the long-term finical impacts on the surrounding community and the municipality? Should we focus on waste-reduction instead of waste-removal? Should we be even doing this project?  These are just some of the questions I would never think about if I were a “normal” engineer. Without sustainability, I would have never considered the long-term finances of a project- more than making sure we within the budget. Without sustainability, I would have never considered the overall social implications and consequences of a projects. Without sustainability, I would have never considered if I was doing the “right” project.  I don’t want to be just a “normal” engineer, I want to do something with my career, and I think I can accomplish that with critical thinking skills I gained from this major.

 

As I mentioned in my last portfolio post, there are, unfortunately, limited jobs in the sustainability-engineering field, and some of these jobs are not in influential role. One prominent position/job that is this sustainability-engineering field is life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA is the examining and calculating the total environmental impact of a product through every step of its life- from its life to death (LCA). Through this process, decisions about a products concept, design and production can be refined to become more sustainable.  I would like to direct my career towards sustainability advisory services/consulting. This would entail a holistic evolution a company, determine high-impact areas that can be improved. These services could include, energy and resource management, sustainable operations and supply chain and strategy development. I am interested to see how this field will continue to grow throughout my lifetime.