Most American businesses take sustainability and environmental conservation seriously. According to the latest reports, 60% of all companies have implemented steps toward becoming sustainable, while 67% are using renewable materials in their product lines. After the pandemic, 55% of businesses took steps to reduce air travel to impart a smaller carbon footprint.
Companies are investing more in becoming sustainable and conserving the environment because consumers are increasingly demanding it.
In the absence of government action, more than 60% of Americans want to see companies taking active steps to save the environment, reduce emissions and recycle. According to a report by Cone, 87% of Americans will buy a product because it is produced by a company that advocates for sustainability and environmental conservation.
Behind every conservation effort and strategy are computer and electrical engineers at work. They are at the forefront of developing technologies and products that help reverse the damage we have done to the environment and innovations that will reduce emissions in the future.
An obvious example is the global push toward a paperless world. As far back as the 1980s, computer engineers started working on storage technologies that eliminated the need for paper.
They developed microfiche and diskettes that could hold huge caches of data, eliminating the need for offices to have paper files.
Fast-forward to today, and we have cloud storage that has allowed many businesses to eliminate paper files. You will still find some paper in almost every office, but can you imagine how much more of it we would need if we didn’t have alternative forms of data storage?
This singular innovation reduced paper consumption, which meant that we cut down fewer trees. It was a significant step toward conserving our forests, and it was all done by computer engineers.
Those who study computer and electronic engineering are in a unique position to contribute innovations in sustainable development and environmental conservation. Their expertise is needed in all industries.
Whether we are talking about the production of renewable energy, travel, manufacturing or agriculture, computer and electrical engineers contribute greatly toward new technologies in sustainable development and environmental conservation.
If you hold a bachelor’s engineering degree or are studying to become an engineer, you should consider a master’s in electrical computer engineering. An ECE master’s degree online makes you an attractive prospect to employers all over the country. Through a program like this, you will become an expert in the integration of electrical and computer systems, development of advanced mobility applications, design and implementation of dynamic systems, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Before you enroll, you may want to understand more about how electrical computer engineers contribute to sustainability and environmental conservation.
Sustainability and environmental conservation for engineers
There are 8 billion people on earth today, and that number is growing. We need natural resources to survive. Our most basic needs are food, water and power, but we continue to destroy their sources.
To produce enough food for everyone, we rely on unsustainable agricultural methods that are wasteful and hurt the soil that we need to grow crops. We cut down trees to create more land for agriculture without thinking about the critical role trees play in ecosystems.
To power our lives, we rely almost solely on oil, contaminating the atmosphere and changing our climate.
For decades now, humanity has known that the current development strategies are unsustainable. Everywhere you look, we leave damage in our wake.
This is most obvious in our relationship with fossil fuels. In a little over a hundred years, the use of oil in transportation and manufacturing has caused untold damage to the environment. We continue to deplete forests, pollute waterways, overfish seas and oceans, dump toxic waste and kill species at an unprecedented rate.
Engineering innovations brought us the technologies that we have used to damage our environment. Without new drilling technologies, for example, we may never have become so reliant on fossil fuels. Without better logging equipment, we would not be cutting down hundreds of thousands of acres of forest every year. We wouldn’t be overfishing our seas if we didn’t have the latest in trawler technology.
Engineering helped us get where we are, and it can help us reverse some of the damage, become more sustainable and reduce environmental degradation.
Today’s engineers are expected to do more than just design and create technologies that solve problems. They have taken a leadership role in providing us with technologies and solutions that transform the way we interact with the environment.
They are tasked with bringing us new means of powering our lives so we can move away from fossil fuels. Engineers are responsible for finding alternative sources of energy, including renewables, so we can stop exploiting non-renewables that pollute the planet.
Examples of electrical computer engineering in sustainable development
Electrical and computer engineers are pivotal in transforming how we interact with the environment. They bring us new modes of communication and transportation, production and manufacturing. They spur innovations that reduce pollution and consumption, and their work is everywhere for all to see.
1. Automotive technology
Modern vehicles have come a long way since they were first invented in the 19th century. By the 20th century, they were widely available. Not only were they a status symbol, but they also offered an easy and convenient means of transportation.
All of them relied on gasoline, and suddenly there was a great demand for oil. Unfortunately, not much attention was paid to how destructive petroleum was to the environment. Today, however, it is common knowledge that every time you fuel a car, you are contributing to climate change in several ways.
New technologies give us hope. Electric and hybrid cars are commonplace. Researchers continue to look into alternative fuels so we can wean ourselves off gasoline. These cars rely on automated systems that are designed and tested by electrical computer engineers.
The average car is much safer today thanks to innovations like anti-brake locking systems, GPS and in-built vehicle alert systems. They are facilitated by microprocessors that are built and installed by electrical computer engineers.
Today’s driver has the option to buy an electric or hybrid car that uses little or no gas. Over time, as technologies improve, it is hoped that we can phase out gas-powered cars completely and move instead to cleaner, renewable means of travel.
2. Wind and solar power
Electrical computer engineers play a big role in the development of alternative sources of energy, such as solar and wind power. They are behind solar and wind farms not just in America but around the world. These professionals design smart grids that produce and distribute energy from the sun and the wind.
Engineers who specialize in this area also design efficient electronics that help lower our carbon footprint. As people become more and more aware of the need to conserve the environment, they strive to make their homes energy-efficient, and one way to do this is by investing in electronics and systems.
This includes installing solar panels, improving HVAC and water heating systems, and improving insulation. Making homes more energy efficient reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Sustainable housing
Although electrical computer engineers do not wire residences and commercial buildings, they are the ones who design the energy-efficient systems that power them.
An energy-efficient home uses the latest technologies in heating and cooling, appliances and lighting. In commercial buildings, engineers create systems that reduce the amount of power that is consumed in production.
With new innovations every year, it is hoped that most homes and businesses in America will make the shift to energy-efficient homes and reduce their reliance on unsustainable power sources.
4. Food production and preservation
The food industry hires hundreds of electrical and computer engineers every year. They develop IT systems that are needed to help companies run smoothly. They are needed for several critical functions.
These engineers develop systems that automate food production and preservation. They are involved in developing food testing systems and procedures, and they also innovate new ways to preserve food affordably and in compliance with health standards.
If a food company wants to develop sustainable packaging, for example, it will rely on electrical engineers to come up with the most efficient way to repackage products at an affordable cost. They create cost-effective automated systems, and they are also involved in testing products to ensure they are safe for public consumption.
These professionals create and maintain the machinery and software that keep us supplied with food year-round. The next time you are in the supermarket, keep in mind none of the products you see would be possible without the contribution of electrical and computer engineers.
5. Waste management and disposal
In most developed countries, waste disposal systems are finely tuned and run automatically without the need for human interference.
These systems are created and tested by scientists. The software that is needed to run them is designed by computer and electrical engineers.
As we accumulate more and more waste, it is the job of these professionals to find more efficient, reliable and affordable ways to deal with it.
Recycling systems, for example, are getting better thanks to the use of computers. Today, we have automated software that is used to sort and recycle waste products.
6. Reduction of pollution
Reducing pollution is at the forefront of environmental conservation efforts, and engineers are continually innovating to ensure we reduce the rate at which we release toxins into the atmosphere.
In every field, there are engineers who are tasked with finding new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and introduce efficiency.
Today, for example, we have systems that can accurately measure how much toxic gas a factory emits. We can measure how much a car is polluting the environment, and we can even measure air quality. All these developments were made possible by electrical and computer engineers.
Development of new energy sources
We have made great strides in developing alternative power sources. Denmark and Uruguay lead the world in alternative energy consumption, and countries like Ireland, Germany, Chile and Romania are making leaps to reduce their carbon footprint using wind and solar farms.
These farms, and the grids that supply consumers, are possible because electrical and computer engineers create the necessary software and systems to power them.
These are just a few examples of the critical role that electrical and computer engineers play in conservation and sustainability. For those with the right qualifications, there are plenty of jobs in nearly every industry.
The role of engineers in sustainable development
Computer, electrical and other engineers use science and technology to solve everyday problems. To do this, they are guided by the following broad principles:
They must respect the planet’s limitations, resources and biodiversity, and ensure that natural resources remain undamaged and are available to future generations.
They should meet the diverse needs of people within the community. This includes promoting well-being for everyone, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating opportunities that are open to all.
Whenever possible, engineers must strive to create robust economies that support prosperity for everyone while promoting efficiency in resource management and ensuring sustainability.
They are tasked with ensuring that policy is based on strong scientific principles that take into account public uncertainty and public values.
Engineers must be active in protecting the environment, limiting global threats and eliminating common hazards such as poor air quality, chemical pollution, and unsafe food and water.
Renewable resources must be protected and used in a manner that does not deplete them.
Is there a future for sustainable engineering?
As you embark on your career, it is important to think about where you might be in 20 or 30 years. Will your skills, knowledge and services still be required?
In a century that has seen remarkable changes caused by climate change, the future seems secure for engineers who want to make an impact in sustainability and environmental conservation.
According to one study, the number of students pursuing higher degrees in this discipline has increased in recent years. This has largely been driven by the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, which put pressure on countries to take active steps in finding sustainable solutions for the economic growth, health and overall well-being of populations. Universities in America are taking steps to include sustainability in many courses, including electrical and computer engineering.
In the coming decades, consumers are expected to demand that governments and businesses become even more responsible, and this will drive a surge in jobs for engineers.
If you get your degree today, you can expect to be employed in a variety of fields. Across the board, employers are prepared to pay attractive salaries to engineers who can help them reduce their carbon footprint and increase sustainability.
What skills are needed to make an impact?
Getting an ECE master’s degree online is the first step. It equips you with the specific skills and knowledge that you’ll use to innovate, create, test and implement new technologies.
If you want to be good at what you do, you need to work on the following areas. They may not be offered as standalone topics in your course, but you can look into additional short courses to fill in any gaps.
Research and analysis – Engineers are continually dealing with data as it informs them about what is happening in the world. To be an exceptional engineer, you should be able to collect, analyze and draw conclusions from data.
Writing reports – After you analyze data, you’ll need to share it with others, and report writing is a useful skill that helps you become better understood.
Presentation and communication – With a master’s in electronic and computer engineering, you can expect to join management, and you’ll likely need to stand before groups to present ideas and findings.
Time management – This is a critical skill for engineers who often work on projects with tight deadlines.
Organization – Projects are large and complex, and without organizational skills, you will find yourself lost in the trenches.
Innovation and creativity – You need to look around you and find sustainable solutions to everyday issues. You should be able to present those solutions to stakeholders and the public at large.
Fostering teamwork – Engineers work in teams. A good team leader encourages others to collaborate and share information. You should be able to create a good work environment where everyone feels valued and is happy to contribute.
Be passionate about sustainability – Can you inspire others to be more considerate toward the environment?
Electrical and computer engineers are at the forefront of sustainable development in all sectors. They are continually innovating, providing products and solutions that are environmentally friendly and allow us to live responsibly.