Office of Academic Affairs
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal

Earth and Environmental Sciences

EES 420/421: Science of Sustainability (4)

Prerequisites (Desirable): MTH and PHY 100 level courses, CHM  and EES 100 and 200 level courses

Learning Objectives:

This course will introduce ideas of sustainability at the global scale across Earth systems and the drivers for sustainability. The course will then explore the methods necessary for designing and implementing changes in various manufacturing process to increase sustainability. Special emphasis will be placed on assessing the connections between economic activities, the natural environment, and our society.  

On the completion of this course, the student will be able to understand and appreciate the complexity of the interaction between the industrial processes and earth resources, the concept of “systems” and industrial symbiosis. Additionally the students will be able to formulate and apply equations to solve numerical problems to evaluate products, processes, and systems in their entire life-cycle, including: materials flow analysis, design for environment, input-output analysis, and life-cycle assessment (LCA).

Course Contents:

Status and trends - Human populations, economic growth, environment, water and food security, mineral and material resources, energy; Climate - status, trends, and the climate of the near future, proxy and climate data evidence; Consumption patterns; Ecological footprints.

Definitions and drivers for sustainability; Sustainability indicators - Social and demographic equity; Economics – Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI); Ecological/Environmental – Ecological footprint; Tragedy of the commons, Neo-malthusians, J-curves, S-curves and the IPAT equation; Major transitions and role of disturbances in the evolution of life and of Earth systems; Sustainability grand challenges.

Natural Ecosystems and Industrial Systems:
Introduction to the concept of industrial ecology, historical development of industrial ecology, linking industrial activity with Earth resources; Biological and industrial organism/systems, similarities and differences, concept of metabolism - biological and industrial organisms, industry-Earth interactions, utility of the ecological approach, and discussion of practical symbiotic cases from a sustainability perspective.

Materials and the Environment:
Adopting a systems perspective, defining system boundaries, life cycle of materials, definitions and terminology, assessing material and energy flows, eco-efficiency, pollution prevention principles, cradle to grave approach - waste and recycling, resource dissipation, and cradle to cradle approach; Case studies.

Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA):
Introduction – History and definition of LCA, LCA stages – Definition of goal and scope, level of detail for boundaries, natural ecosystem boundaries, LCA inventories, input/output assessment, LCA impact and interpretation, identifying issues in the results, drawing conclusions and recommendations, prioritizing recommendations, comparative LCA modeling; Limitations of LCA; Case studies.

Industrial Ecosystems:
Environmental impact assessment, policy implications, eco-industrial parks, development of industrial symbiosis, socio-economic dimensions of industrial symbiosis.

Suggested Readings :

  1. Dahlem Workshop Reports, 2004, Earth System Analysis for Sustainability.
  2. Graedel, T. E., and Allenby, B. R., 2003, Industrial Ecology, Pearson Education.
  3. Ashby, M. F., 2009, Materials and the Environment: Eco-informed Material Choice, Elsevier.
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