Your Sustainability Profession: A Small Piece of a Big Puzzle

By Laura Elizabeth Clayton Paul | Sustainable Living, Urban Design

Green roofs: one mention, by a fellow student, was literally the only thing even remotely sustainably minded in my Civil Engineering bachelor degree.  I longed not only for technical sums to be solved, but also world issues.

Was I in the wrong field?

It certainly seemed so 10 years ago, as I stepped tentatively into my freshman year. Yet now, sustainability has become increasingly recognized as an essential part of any responsible building design. It’s been heartwarming to see the industry change so rapidly, and I’ve been blessed to have a front row seat on the action.

The US EPA’s Inventory of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and Sinks, identifies electricity production as the number one cause of GHG’s, making up over 1/3 of all emissions. This does not touch on all of the other environmental loads caused by the building sector, such as: material extraction, transport, and ongoing maintenance. It’s impossible to overlook the magnitude of impact the built environment has on the resilience of the planet. We all have vested interest in buildings, spending the majority of our time living and working in them.


The future of green building – scifi city settlement. Image via LeArchitecto, Shutterstock.

This cannot be just a movement for the elite or for the sustainability specialists – we all have a role to play from Urban Planners, Architects, Engineers, Builders, Product Manufacturers, Facility managers, Owners, Tenants, to the General Public.

Most of my heroes are unsung. They are the people who quietly, without fanfare, roll up their sleeves and live out their beliefs. Some are young, some poor, some with little to no building design knowledge, but through their individual actions, the world is changing.

Never underestimate the positive impact you can make, first in your own life and then slowly increasing your circle of influence to your family, your career, your workplace, your community, your city, your country, the world. Over the past couple of years, I have saved up and DIY-ed myself to a more sustainable home, recording some of my journey on my blog. I’m not close to being finished, but there is beauty and satisfaction in the translation of theory to your own journey.

If you are an Engineer – what is the embodied energy of the materials you are specifying? If you’re an Architect – do you consider deconstruction during design? If you are a home owner – what energy reducing initiatives are you implementing? If you are a manufacturer – what is the cradle to cradle impact of your product? If you are a student – have you rallied for environmental improvement of facilities? What’s one action you can commit to start pursuing today?

I’m not in the wrong field, and neither are you.

Feature Image: Green Leaf Puzzle. Image via Fotosearch.

About The Author

Sustainable Building Consultant, B.Eng. Earth’s pupil. Change agent. Interested in: being the change, world without limits & compassionate sustainable living.