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To Be Green Or Not To Be Green? Ethical Tools for Sustainability Engineering

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Innovative IE Course Content

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Engineering Economy, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1251.1 - 23.1251.12



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Paper Authors


Connie Gomez Galveston College

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Dr. Gomez received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. She has worked in the areas of Computer Aided Tissue Engineering and Sustainability at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is currently a member of Galveston College, developing a new Engineering Program.

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Heidi A. Taboada University of Texas, El Paso

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Jose F. Espiritu University of Texas, El Paso

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To Be Green Or Not To Be Green? Ethical Tools for Sustainability EngineeringEngineers are increasingly being asked to design products and process that reduce the overallimpact society has on the environment as more people realize the rising need to developsustainable resources and to be responsible when using existing resources. In order to adequatelyprepare students to enter this ever increasing demand for sustainable engineering, students needto have an understanding of the technical needs of society as well as the human component indesign, be it the use of local resources, the lack of surplus resources, the change in societalvalues, and expectation of justified answers from the public, business, and individuals.Set within the framework of an introductory course to sustainability engineering, students frommultiple engineering disciplines are introduced to the code of engineering ethics and to theapplication of engineering ethics to sustainability dilemma within a series of group activities.During the activities, students address the questions of “Who has to die?”, “Paper versusPlastic?”, and “How much house do I need?”, where there is not a clear conclusion to a “good”choice.In “Who has to die?”, the changes and difficult choices stemming from the a lack of resourcesform the basis for discussion of changes in acceptable practices in society and how a societymight decide who will have access to the resources. The students themselves represent themembers of society and the class discusses some of the underlying issues that influence how aperson could reach a conclusion of who survives. At the start of the “Paper versus Plastic”,students tend to be apathetic about the choice between paper and plastic bags until they areplaced in competing groups. Once placed within a group that must defend a selection, studentsbegin to increase their level of participation and their advocacy on a particular choice. At the endof this activity, students present a short message to persuade the entire class of paper or plastic.Afterwards, group discussion includes not only the technical merits of each choice but thechange in levels of advocacy the class has undergone. In “How much house do I need?”, studentsare asked to consider their housing needs and desires and to weigh them against housingrequirements of previous generations and extreme green living examples.

Gomez, C., & Taboada, H. A., & Espiritu, J. F. (2013, June), To Be Green Or Not To Be Green? Ethical Tools for Sustainability Engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22636

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