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What is a Green Engineer?

By Samantha G. Dias
Updated Feb 08, 2024
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A green engineer is someone who measures variables, performs analyses, designs systems, and improves existing products and processes with strong consideration for long-term environmental sustainability. Similar to traditional engineers, green engineers must meet or exceed technical project specifications, profitability expectations, and human welfare protection requirements in their research and development work. Green engineers go a step further, however, creating designs that prevent the generation of pollution. Additionally, green engineers typically must quantify the negative consequences of pollution on ecosystems.

Regardless of the specific industry he or she is involved in, a green engineer modifies standard operating procedures and accepted practices so that they are “greener,” or more environmentally friendly. Standard operating procedures might be modified to increase the recycling of materials, lower pollution control costs, decrease energy consumption, and use fewer harmful chemicals. Green engineers might also engage in carbon dioxide sequestration, emissions and waste reduction, fuel cell development, environmental monitoring to reduce greenhouse gases, and power metering analysis.

The most common application of green engineering concepts is in the development of energy-efficient systems and systems that utilize alternative sources of power, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power. A green engineer might also work on designing and deploying enhanced energy storage systems such as batteries and capacitors, or he or she might monitor the condition of energy systems, including necessary repairs. Other green engineers might focus on manufacturing safer, quieter wind turbine blades or determining how to improve the transmission of power from photovoltaic panels in remote areas to the wider power grid.

Also known as a environmental engineer, a green engineer typically must obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering and participate in hands-on internships as undergraduate students. This academic background and experience is required for most entry-level positions in the innovative green engineering field. In many countries, green engineers must comply with licensure requirements by completing continuing education classes and seminars, passing exams, and gaining relevant work experience. There are also additional mandates for re-licensure with which green engineers must comply.

Growing concerns about the effects of global climate change, high fuel costs, expanding energy restrictions, and heightened security concerns associated with more traditional power sources have caused the demand for green engineers to expand rapidly. Various government and private sector entities throughout the world are working cooperatively to strengthen green engineering advancements in a myriad of industrial and manufacturing processes.

A government's agency or other body in charge of environmental issues is a good place to get information about becoming a green engineer. To become a green engineer in the United States, contact the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA offers information for green engineering educators and students.

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