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Environmental Education For All Engineers

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.199.1 - 1.199.6



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Paper Authors

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Wayne E. Wells

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3151


Dr. Wayne E. Wells University of Texas-Pan American

Project Description

The educational initiative described in this paper is based on three premises. The first is that the impact of manufacturing and manufacturing decisions on the environment can be profound; profoundly positive or negative. The fate of efforts toward systematic elimination of pollution in the environment rests to a great extent upon decisions made in manufacturing. There is no longer any question about the need for protection of the environment. Various groups may differ about the details and priorities but our society at large has reached consensus on the general concept of environmental preservation and protection

The second premise is that the only effective means to change the way these decisions are made is to provide a profit motive for the manufacturers, through new technological solutions. The United States Environ- mental Protection Agency (EPA) has now formally recognized that need through their “Common Sense Initia- tive.” Under this plan, industries are encouraged to find technological solutions to problems of environmental protection which are consistent with good business practices.

The third premise states that to effect this improvement we must change the way engineers make decisions, which requires changing the way in which we educate them. Engineers are the individuals ultimately responsible for making the product, process and materials selection decisions for manufacturing. If we intend to change the decisions they make, we must change the way they arrive at these decisions. In my view, the case is no different than that faced a few years ago by American manufacturers, in the field of quality. Serious market threats by high quality offshore producers made US. manufacturers rethink their quality policies and they quickly found truth in the phrase “quality is free.” They found that the most efficient way to manufacture is in the manner which produces the highest quality level.

EPA, through its Common Sense Initiative, has opened the door to this new era. The application of technology can make environmental protection consistent with lowering manufacturing cost just as the applica- tion of technology made improving quality more cost effective. It took a long time for American manufacturers to realize that improved quality could mean higher profits. We need to take advantage of that learning in advancing the cause of environmental protection. We need to help manufacturers by demonstrating that there is cost to be saved by eliminating waste and preventing pollution. Under the Common Sense Initiative, engineers will be called upon to develop new approaches in product design, materials selection and manufacturing processes to reduce manufacturing’s impact on the environment. Under the previous po}Iutant-by-pollutant policy, industries tended to continue their previous practices and simply add controls, rather than adopt new technologies. Environmental engineers were called upon to find control and remediation solutions within the

#@x& F 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘Q,.,cilyp,:

Wells, W. E. (1996, June), Environmental Education For All Engineers Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6036

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