52 Concepts and Definitions

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

Characterize green engineering developments

Green Engineering Definition

Green engineering is the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products in a way that reduces pollution, promotes sustainability, and minimizes risks to human health and the environment without sacrificing economic viability and efficiency.[latex]^{[1]}[/latex].

Examples of Opportunities in Green Engineering

• Clean fuels

• Sustainable or better regenerative development

• Waste reduction

• Not having to deal with byproducts, or finding a value use for byproducts

Basic Ideas Used in Green Engineering

Within green engineering, we can think about ways to improve processes and generally see that some of these may be more effective than others. Examples of a few means of process improvement listed in order of most effective to least effective follow.

  1. Elimination – remove the need for harmful materials or choosing other process pathways to eliminate the production of harmful products
  2. Substitution (also known as waste reduction or process optimization) – using less harmful materials, or optimizing the process to reduce the formation rate of harmful by-products
  3. Recycling – putting energy or materials back into use

Concepts in green engineering processes generally translate to economic, environmental, and social benefits. Processes meeting these three aims will generally thrive in the long term.

Environmental Regulations

Environmental regulations generally determine how companies must act as a minimum. The standards may vary in each country. These will dictate:

• Human safety, ensuring people aren’t exposed to harmful substances

• Pollution control measures that must be reported

• Emission limits

Over time, limits generally get more restrictive → means that the most efficient processes will be the ones that succeed in the longer term.

As an example, environmental restrictions of chemicals in Canada can be found on the site of Health Canada from the Government of Canada.

Waste Management Hierarchy

The waste management hierarchy shows certain methods of process improvements and lists them from least to most effective. The most effective process improvements generally require more detailed engineering as they are more complex. However, they also can create much more efficient processes.


[1] United States Environmental Protection Agency, About Green Engineering, 18-Mar-2019. [Online]. Available: <https://www.epa.gov/green-engineering/about-green-engineering#:~:text=Green> [Accessed: 17-Jun-2020].



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