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Engineers Unite to Protect the Environment, Draft Principles that Encourage Sustainability


Hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and heat, producing only water as waste.
Image courtesy of the Dana Corporation

Taking a proactive stance to address environmental concerns, leading engineers from business, academia, and government have united to draft principles to guide their trade.

Nine tenets of Green Engineering (below) were developed during a May 18-22, 2003, multidisciplinary conference entitled “Green Engineering: Defining the Principles” held in Sandestin, Florida.

Attendees from such diverse entities as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NSF, Siemans, and the Zero Waste Alliance defined green engineering as, “the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products, which are feasible and economical while minimizing generation of pollution at the source and risk to human health and the environment.”

The workshop was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and organized by Dr. Martin Abraham, a professor of chemical engineering at The University of Toledo.

Draft principles were compiled by Nhan Nguyen, chief of the Chemical Engineering Branch of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics. Nguyen based his draft on the findings of more than a dozen academic, government, industry, and other organizations that promote environmental stewardship, with templates including the United Nations’ Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the CERES (Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) Principles.

Attendees modified the draft and established final principles that emphasized safety and environmental impact while still considering cost and performance issues. A summary report is available at the conference website:

Building upon their progress, attendees tentatively scheduled a second Green Engineering conference for 2005. The engineering umbrella organization Engineering Conferences International sponsored the May conference, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Society of Automotive Engineers served as technical co-sponsors. The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute provided additional funds to support the conference.

The Green Engineering Principles with preamble and closing statement follow:

Green Engineering transforms existing engineering disciplines and practices to those that promote sustainability. Green Engineering incorporates development and implementation of technologically and economically viable products, processes, and systems that promote human welfare while protecting human health and elevating the protection of the biosphere as a criterion in engineering solutions.
To fully implement green engineering solutions, engineers use the following principles:
  1. Engineer processes and products holistically, use systems analysis, and integrate environmental impact assessment tools.

  2. Conserve and improve natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-being.

  3. Use life-cycle thinking in all engineering activities.

  4. Ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently safe and benign as possible.

  5. Minimize depletion of natural resources.

  6. Strive to prevent waste.

  7. Develop and apply engineering solutions, while being cognizant of local geography, aspirations, and cultures.

  8. Create engineering solutions beyond current or dominant technologies; improve, innovate and invent (technologies) to achieve sustainability.

  9. Actively engage communities and stakeholders in development of engineering solutions.

There is a duty to inform society of the practice of green engineering.

NSF Media Contact: Josh Chamot, (703) 292-7730,

Josh Chamot | NSF
Further information:

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