Sustainability is a hot topic in the engineering world today. As awareness of Global Warming and its impact on our environment rises, people are looking to engineers for new ways to help reduce—and, if possible, reverse—the effect industrialized societies have on the world. The “green” movement is on the rise, and as a result, green engineering will soon become the rule rather than the exception.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines green engineering as “the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products, which are feasible and economical while minimizing 1) generation of pollution at the source and 2) risk to human health and the environment.” In addition to this definition, the EPA website also provides a list of “Principles of Green Engineering”, which goes into more detail about what “green” actually means here. “Minimize depletion of natural resources” and “Strive to prevent waste” are two of these principles, and are clearly concepts that should be integrated into the engineering process in general, as well as every-day life.
In the future, all cities and structures will no doubt be designed to be self-sustaining. Solar panels and gardens will line the rooftops of buildings. Wind turbines and hydroelectric plants will provide power instead of fossil fuels. All the building materials will have been reclaimed and recycled.
In some parts of the world, however, green engineering has already become the norm and these cities of the future already exist. Europe boasts a number of such green cities, perhaps the most notable of which is Reykjavik, Iceland. The city of Reykjavik depends almost entirely on hydroelectric and geothermal sources for its electricity needs, and plans to be entirely fossil fuel free by 2050. So far, no other city in the world matches the Icelandic capital in its use of renewable energy sources, but perhaps one of the green cities currently under construction, like Sherford, England, or Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates.