the Brundtland Commission, led by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The Commission defined sustainable development as development that, “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
While there may be few regulations governing sustainability, it was agreed that clear quantitative definitions and means to measure and compare are important. This will allow corporations and individuals to set sustainability goals and measure progress against them. Life cycle analysis (LCA), which can provide a composite measure of sustainability, measures the environmental performance of products and services through all phases of their life cycle, starting from the extraction and processing of raw materials to manufacturing, transportation, use, recycling, and final disposal. LCA may refer to the impact of a product or service on specific measures such as greenhouse gas emissions (global warming), ozone layer depletion, and land use.
Various examples of sustainable practices at corporations represented by the breakout session participants were discussed, including water conservation during aluminum refining and the use of bio-based and biodegradable plastics.
Sustainability through the preservation of natural resources for future generations should be an important consideration for all engineers and consequently for NAE.
A rigorous definition of sustainability and its various facets is important and necessary.
Standardized means to quantify and report sustainability are extremely important to encourage good practices and minimize fraudulent claims. This is an area on which NAE can exert a considerable influence, possibly through the commissioning of a task force composed of engineers, scientists, environmentalists, and policy makers. This task force may also explore ways to introduce regulations to encourage sustainable practices/processes by commercial enterprises.
Awareness and education at the grassroots level are important in order for society to enjoy the benefits of sustainable practices for generations to come. Formal introduction to sustainability concepts in high school and college curricula will go a long way to achieving this. This is also an area where NAE can exert a strong influence through concerted efforts such as the preparation and distribution of appropriate literature, short course offerings, and teacher-training programs.
This group spent the first part of its discussion trying to define sustainability. It was quickly discovered that this term means different things depending on the perspective and background of the individual. Sustainability can be examined in