GREENgineering: Duke Bleeds GREEN

3/1 DukEngineer Magazine

Initiated by Dean Ravi Bellamkonda, GREENgineering is working toward a greener and more sustainable Pratt School of Engineering

Workers line one side of tables while visitors line the other at an information fair
GREENgineering: Duke Bleeds GREEN

The time to start working on a sustainable future has passed, and if we continue doing nothing today, future generations will bear the brunt of our actions. GREENgineering is an initiative that thinks, talks, and works toward a greener and more sustainable Pratt School of Engineering.

The program was initiated by Ravi Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, who believes sustainability is a generational responsibility. A few months ago, Dean Bellamkonda challenged the Pratt community to become more sustainable, and now the initiative has assumed a life of its own.

When Dean Bellamkonda first expressed interest in an initiative to work toward a sustainable Pratt, a couple of faculty and staff convened to discuss the end goals and potential initiatives to achieve them. “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough and wanted to make myself accountable,” says Kelly Rockwell, founding co-chair of GREENgineering along with civil and environmental engineering associate professor Lee Ferguson. “GREENgineering is a great community of very passionate people who want to bring real change in our environment, no matter how small or large. I wanted to be a part of that. This is a great group for everyone who wants to make an impact.”

Initiative members comprise Pratt staff, faculty and students, who have the sole intention of making the university more environmentally friendly. Established in April 2019, the team has already been successful in identifying faculty and staff leaders who can facilitate green certification. With their help, any student or faculty can get their laboratories, classrooms, workspaces or events green-certified through the GREENgineering website.

Green certification provides practical ways to incorporate sustainability, waste reduction and efficient energy usage for staff and students. Under the initiative, the number of bottle-filling water fountains has been increased and disposable plastic bottles sold through vending machines have been removed. The initiative encourages carpooling, turning off computers outside of work hours and using sustainable vendors—actions that could reduce carbon emissions and increase fuel efficiency.

People talk across tables at an information fairOutside of Pratt’s facilities, there is so much an individual can do. The choice of not consuming single-use plastic can produce a significant impact. For anyone interested in taking an active part in GREENgineering, their official website serves as a valuable resource. The location of cardboard, battery, styrofoam and plastic film recycling bins are listed on the website. The process to get a laboratory, workspace, classroom, event or course green-certified is also expounded in detail. A compiled ‘green vendors’ list and greenevent planning tips for anyone on the campus organizing an event can be found on the website. The team welcomes anyone who wants to volunteer to make Pratt greener or is interested in creating awareness about sustainability or GREEN initiatives.

The crucial challenge that currently stands before GREENgineering is unawareness, a problem that cannot be solved theoretically. According to the team, knowledge on the effects of single-use plastics and styrofoam, and their role in waste management, must be increased. People should know about the initiatives within Pratt that work toward a greener tomorrow. The team is working toward overcoming these challenges.

The GREENgineering committee members meet once a month, and in between those meetings, the subcommittees meet. These meetings consist of actionable items and an examination of potential plans. GREENgineering is currently discussing the means to communicate to the Pratt community about recycling, composting and other sustainable options. In the spring term, the team will work on promoting Duke’s recycling program to generate more impact. The initiative is also looking at developing systems that measure and report energy savings and creating a bicycle shelter. Pratt has not waited for another school to start somewhere. As a Pratt student, don’t wait for someone to do something, because we possess the potential to initiate a change.

“All of these initiatives might be a small drop in a bucket, but the drops add. Likewise, the actions of people exert a cascading effect. Change does not happen in theory. We thought we needed to implement changes in our sphere of action and work as much as we can to generate maximum impact. The exclusive way to achieve that was to start, agree on a set of actions, work, face problems, learn from them, experiment, adapt and do it again differently. Because it is our responsibility to take care of the earth while we are here, so the subsequent generations are not burdened. After all, we have benefited from the actions of the previous generations.”

Dean Ravi V. Bellamkonda, on why it was significant to concentrate on GREENgineering now

Asha Mallapragada is a graduate student majoring in engineering management