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Changing practices

Trends in resource use and energy consumption indicate that current forms of industrial production are not sustainable in the long term. Many industrial production systems continue to be inefficient and wasteful and thereby threaten to overwhelm the assimilative capacity of our planet. In order to reverse these developments, industries need to radically improve their energy efficiency, reduce their resource consumption and curb the release of harmful by-products. This calls for the development of new approaches towards industrial development. Building a sustainable economy requires greener industries and enterprises. Substantial steps in innovation, investment, implementation and mainstreaming are necessary to improve current systems of industrial production and consumption for them to be able to actively contribute to environmental and socioeconomic progress.

The greening of industries and enterprises provides stability and resilience to economic development and improves job and income security, energy reliability and human well-being. The current challenges of climate change provide an even more urgent need for changes in practice towards smart and climate-friendly solutions.

Green engineering – Changing product design and processes

Green engineering is the design, commercialisation and use of processes and products that are feasible and economical while minimising the generation of pollution at source and risks to human health and the environment.

Green engineering embraces the concept that decisions to protect human health and the environment can have the greatest impact and cost effectiveness when applied early to the design and development phase of a process or product.

According to the principles of green engineering, designers must endeavour to:

  • engineer processes and products holistically, use systems analysis, and integrate environmental impact assessment tools;
  • conserve and improve natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-being;
  • use lifecycle thinking in all engineering activities;
  • ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently safe and benign as possible;
  • minimise the depletion of natural resources;
  • prevent waste;
  • develop and apply engineering solutions, while being aware of local geography, aspirations and cultures;
  • create engineering solutions beyond current or dominant technologies; and improve, innovate and invent (technologies) to achieve sustainability; and
  • actively engage communities and stakeholders in the development of engineering solutions.

The green engineering concept and principles were presented in 2003 at an international multidisciplinary conference by engineers to serve as guidance in the design or redesign of products and processes within the constraints dictated by business, government and society such as cost, safety, performance and environmental impact.