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How to Build a New Legion of Sustainability Engineers

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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.

 

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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