We asked Sara Behdad, UB assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, to tell us about her work in, and thoughts on sustainability.
What are you doing to help UB become more sustainable?
At UB, I have the opportunity to educate students on principles of sustainability in two graduate/undergraduate level courses: (1) Sustainable Design and Manufacturing and (2) Decision-Based Design. I discuss new engineering approaches toward sustainability and provide a road map on how to move from traditional business models of 20th century to the sustainable systems and business models of 21st century.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you pursue at UB?
My research lab, Green Engineering Technologies for Community of Tomorrow (GETCOT), is currently engaged in transmitting newly created knowledge in the area of sustainable design, end-of-life product recovery and electronic waste (e-waste) issue, to a broader audience. We have been developing some multi-dimensional decision making tools to help manufacturers evaluate different product design alternatives in terms of cost, environmental impact and social effects. The intellectual merit of our research lies in moving beyond the existing environmental control strategies, typically employed to remediate environmental damage of e-waste after the waste have been generated and released to the environment, to focus more on the product design stage. Our research is based on this belief that if we want to solve e-waste issue, we need to focus on the design stage and solve it from origin. Design for multiple lifecycle and Design for ease-of-return are examples of concepts we pursue in our research.
How are students involved in your sustainability work?
Almost all of our research activities are handled by UB students. They are the actual drivers of our sustainability related studies.
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you do in your personal life to further sustainability?
I would like to adopt the conscious consumerism approach in my personal life. The concept of promoting and educating consumers to be more mindful or ‘conscious’ of how purchases affect other people, the planet, and, as a result, limiting purchases to what is truly needed is recognized as “conscious consumerism”. Greater respect for a sustainable environment requires people who are more conscious about the hidden costs of their purchases and who seek to minimize such costs by investigating alternatives such as purchasing refurbished products, consuming locally, and engaging in resource sharing. I hope one day I can successfully implement these strategies in my daily life unconsciously.
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
I think UB should investigate the role that the cloud-based ICT services could play in reducing the campus environmental impacts and how ICT can play a positive role in achieving a more sustainable campus.