2006 Dialog

2006 First Annual Dialog on Sustainability

Wednesday, July 12, 2007
Kansas State University

1:20     Introduction – Larry Erickson, KSU

1:30     Environmental Sustainability – Tapas K. Das, SEMCON, Inc.

2:30     Launching a Sustainable Product Wikipedia – Greg Norris, KSU and Harvard University

3:00     Energy and Sustainability – Blase Leven, KSU

3:15     Dialog on New Initiatives

1.      Sustainability Seminar Series
2.      Proposed Product Design Course
3.      Intersession Class on Environmental Sustainability
4.      Proposals and Funded Projects
5.      Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability

All who were interested were invited to attend.

Dr. Tapas Das is the author of the new book, “Toward Zero  Discharge.” He has B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering. Please see the following page for further information on the presentation by Dr. Das.

Dr. Greg Norris founded Sylvatica and teaches graduate courses at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a Program Associate at KSU.

Environmental Sustainability

Tapas K. Das

The idea of sustainability and/or sustainable development emerged from the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the so-called Brundtland commission, which defined sustainable development in “Our Common Future” as that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Environmental sustainability and/or sustainable development “occurs when we maintain or improve the material and social conditions for human health and the environment over time without exceeding the ecological capabilities that support them.” As such, sustainability has three underlying bases: (1) economic viability - the cost and business aspects of a project; (2) social concern - human health and social welfare; and (3) natural or ecological issues - depletion of natural capital and environment. Sustainable development has become a major driving initiative in engineering businesses throughout the world today. Our focus here is on environmental sustainability which is a key component of sustainable development.

It has been generally acknowledged that the increasing use of non-renewable resources to support an increasing population has created an unsustainable situation. Should this rate of use be maintained, two dire consequences will follow: first, future generations will be unable to maintain a high standard of living, and second, developing countries will have less of an opportunity to bring their living standards to a level comparable to that of the affluent West. The practice of chemical engineering, perhaps more than any other technical discipline, involves the use of both non-renewable and renewable materials and energy resources for the production of chemicals, value-added goods, services of commerce, and waste as pollution.  Not all wastes from these activities may be harmful or hazardous if released to the environment. However, pollution is any release to environment (i.e., any routine or accidental emission, effluent, spill, discharge, or disposal to the air, land or water) that contaminates or degrades the environment over time. 

It is critically important that chemists and chemical engineers incorporate the ideas of cleaner production and environmental sustainability into process and product design, manufacturing, value chain management, and industrial hazardous and/or non-hazardous by-products synergy for the purpose of minimizing resource utilization, and adverse health and environmental impact. The concepts and applications of innovative methodology and technologies for cleaner production hierarchy and sustainability principles and tools, including green chemistry, green engineering, industrial ecology, and life-cycle assessment (LCA), are becoming part of research and development practice to extend the knowledge of, and offer solutions to, complex environmental sustainability issues – recognizing the need for balance between economics, societal needs and social responsibilities.

This talk primarily dealt with the ideas of environmental sustainability and/or sustainable development including methodologies to redesign sustainable chemical and allied processes and products development using the LCA approach while using case studies to illustrate the concepts.  This talk also focused on what chemists, chemical engineers, toxicologists, biologists, economists, policy makers, scientists, and researchers from other disciplines of engineering, science, medicine, literature, and arts can do to further contribute through interdisciplinary research, seminars, and educational activities, to fully visualize, establish, and implement environmental sustainability and sustainable development.