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CFES CSE 2020 - Sustainable living, Logan Panwik & Syed Promit

The Conference on Sustainability in Engineering was very eye opening to the problems that society is currently facing, and how we as engineers can lead the way to a greener future. In this post I will touch on the most valuable and insightful information I learned at the conference in hopes it will get you thinking about what you can do as an individual to be more sustainable.

The first thing everyone must realise is that becoming more sustainable involves everyone in every nation. What we also must realise is the privilege we have of being able to study engineering in Canada. All of us have the capability to use our resources and knowledge that we have here in Canada to better the world. With the increasing demand for sustainability there are many opportunities in this industry, for all disciplines. Reflect on what you’ve learned in your favourite class this year. Now think of how that topic or a certain process in it could be made more sustainable, it may be more obvious than you think.

“Why should I change my lifestyle if climate change isn’t affecting me?”, that’s a pretty common attitude I’ve seen while talking about sustainability with my peers. Here in Canada the effects of climate change and pollution are barely felt, but why does that give us the right to live an unsustainable life that others must pay for? Canada is the third largest greenhouse gas polluter per person in the world. In 40-60 years when the average global temperature is still increasing, we will most likely have more mild temperatures than the rest of the world, along with good drinking water supply. However poorer countries closer to the equator will be living in extreme heat, which will cause water shortages as water wells dry up. These countries won’t have the resources and money to supply necessities, and tensions could lead to civil wars with mass tragedies. While these situations are theoretical, the possibility is very real if the global community doesn’t make sustainability a priority.  

“I’m just one person, my efforts aren’t even going to be notable”. While it is easy to feel this way, it is simply not true, especially as engineers. The sustainability topic is still new and picking up momentum. Whether it’s designing a power system, a new building, or a chemical process, there are always ways to make it more sustainable. You just need to think outside of the box. By the time becoming completely sustainable is the mainstream, most of us will be in positions of power in the industry. This means that it will be us determining the best way to move forward sustainably.

Until we are making the important decisions in the industry, what can we all do right now to make an impact? Here are three simple and effective ways to reduce your environmental footprint.

  1. Reduce your intake of red meat. It takes on average 7250 litres of water to produce one pound of beef. Reducing your intake will allow for better and more efficient use of water.
  2. Always carry a reusable cup. If everyone carried around a reusable water bottle as well as a reusable coffee mug, millions of single-use cups will be avoided.
  3. Reduce vacations. The average carbon footprint on a Toronto-Phoenix round trip flight is around 800 pounds of CO2. On average Canadians emit 100 pounds on a regular day.

I challenge you to pick one of these three options and implement it consistently. Tell your friends to do the same, spread the word. Sustainability in the future isn’t an option, it is a must and we as engineers will be able to lead the way in doing so, creating a sustainable future for many generations to come.

Logan Pankiw & Syed Promit
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