Most of us feel like we live in a fantasy world with how technology keeps progressing. Any kind of food and drink is available with just a short trip to the store; clothing is cheap; any item we can imagine could be on our doorsteps in a matter of hours or days; and we are connected to nearly everyone in the world through glowing screens. For this enchanted life, we must thank the ceaseless efforts of engineers.
Yet, the work is not over ― if anything, it has just begun. Humankind will never stop advancing, but it is becoming ever-more apparent that we direct our advancement toward environmentally friendly outcomes. Therefore, the more green engineers we have working in the field, the better. Sustainability must become a primary focus for the engineers of tomorrow, which means we must work today to educate engineering students to keep environmental impact in mind. To ensure that the future of engineering is a green one, we must cultivate a legion of sustainability engineers.
Establish Values of Sustainability in Engineering Curriculum
The sooner an engineer learns about the importance of sustainability, the more likely that they will be to integrate environmentally friendly practices into their work. Therefore, engineering programs at colleges and universities should compel emerging engineers (or, at least, offer the option) to take one or more classes on sustainability. The knowledge that sustainable materials are available, sustainable practices are achievable, and sustainable engineering does exist will encourage future generations of engineers to consider green options whenever possible.
Established engineers can gain a sense of sustainability by returning to school, perhaps for an online master’s in engineering. Because advanced engineering programs provide training in more than engineering practices, engineers who seek additional education are more likely to receive a firm foundation in sustainable practices. Furthermore, with this credential, engineers can proceed into leadership positions, where they will have more influence in fostering a sustainable engineering mindset.
Encourage Conscientious Thought in Project Development
Most engineers have a simple goal: to complete a project on-time, under-budget, and to the client’s specifications. As a result, not all engineers consider how their projects will impact anyone or anything other than users; as long as the customers are happy, the engineers should be happy, too. There is little reason for engineers to fret about greater responsibilities, perhaps to the economy, society, or the environment.
Yet, as recent history has shown, technological advances are not without broader impact. Every vehicle on the road adds pollutants to the air; every home appliance drawing energy from the grid contributes to climate change. Energy inefficient designs, toxic materials, and other harmful processes are degrading the planet, so lack of foresight is to blame.
Engineers, engineer leaders, and engineering firms in general must consider the impact of their designs before producing them and releasing them to the public. Being aware of potential dangers to public health goes beyond checking for immediate user injury; any creation that can damage the environment will eventually contribute to human suffering.
Promote Critical Thinking for Alternative Methods
Most engineers pride themselves on their critical thinking prowess. It is difficult to be an effective engineer without the ability to problem-solve and evaluate quickly. However, it might be beneficial to tweak how engineers think critically. For example, rather than searching for the cheapest, easiest solution, engineers should consider solutions that offer higher energy efficiency, alternative materials, and are more sustainable ― while remaining cost effective for producers and consumers. After a brief period of cognitive reprogramming, generating alternative, sustainable technologies will be second-nature for engineers.
Compare Industrial and Sustainable Engineering Practices
It is important to note that modern engineers are not at all evil, and past engineers did not actively work to destroy the environment. Still, it is undeniable that left unchecked, current inefficient engineering processes will burn our precious natural resources cause damage to the planet. It is imperative that more engineers modify their methods to become sustainable ― and view this change not as a burdensome pivot away from historical engineering practice but rather a new development in the evolution of engineering knowledge. Future engineers must be O-shaped, concerned not only with client satisfaction but with the relationships their creations make to environments, cultures, and more.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!