SustainabilitySustainability with CES EduPack

A "sustainable development" is one that contributes in an equitable way to human welfare, minimizes the drain on natural resources, complies with the rule of law, and is financially viable.

The challenge

Many civil, commercial, government and academic projects claim to do this, and many of them have implications for materials consumption and use—examples are:

  • developing biopolymers to replace those derived from oil
  • subsidising electric cars
  • promoting bamboo as a building material
  • requiring photo-voltaic (PV) panels on new residential buildings.

We refer to these as "articulations" of sustainable development. But how are they to be assessed? There is no simple, "right" answer to questions of sustainable development. Instead there is a thoughtful, well-researched analysis of a proposed articulation that recognizes the concerns of stakeholders, the demands created for materials and energy the economic, legal and social constraints and the environmental legacy.

Sustainable development

Meeting the challenge—the CES EduPack Sustainable Development Edition

Introducing students to this complexity is a challenge. The CES EduPack Sustainability database (available in the CES EduPack Sustainable Development Edition) is designed to support the teaching of sustainability from a Materials perspective. It consists of seven linked data-tables. They provide the data needed for engineering design and for the eco-audit of products. They allow materials to be traced back to their countries of origin and give warning of possible supply constraints. They flag legislation and regulation that bears on the use and disposal of materials. They include information on price and allow cost comparison of alternative design choices. And they allow investigation of the economic, environmental and social characteristics of the countries from which materials are sourced or in which manufacturing takes place.

The aim is not to define a single metric or index of sustainability; rather it is to improve the quality of discussion and debate on projects that claim to be sustainable developments.

More information

More information can be found in the White Papers Materials and Sustainable Development and Material Risk and Corporate Sustainability available from Granta's Teaching Resources Website and from the new text "Materials and Sustainable Development" ( ISBN ISBN-10: 0081001762, ISBN-13: 978-0081001769). These describe a 5 step methodology to help students assess articulations of Sustainable Development within a problem-based learning course. The methodology has been tested and refined on courses at The University of Cambridge, UPC in Barcelona and UIUC in the United States. Project packs with resources for both students and educators, including sample analyses and templates have been created for 3 case studies.

We welcome comments and suggestions on how we can develop better resources in this area in the future. You can find out more about our work on this here.