The concept of “green” is one that
has morphed into a catch-all category for anything that either reduces human
consumption or effluent into the air or water. In fact, the earth is a
big “black box” with solar radiation coming in on the sunny side and black body
radiation leaving on the dark side. With the exception of the lingering
“big bang” energy (molten core and element isotopes), all available energy we
use is solar energy, and that includes all carbon-based fuels.
Our focus on the type of energy we use is generally centered on the energy used to operate a product or system. Ignoring the energy required to make the product or system is a misguided approach, leading us to make decisions that actually increase our energy consumption while falsely feeling “green”. The focus of our decision making should rather be on reducing overall energy consumption in everything we do.
Humankind can survive and thrive if we keep the energy consumed to less than the net solar energy coming into this “black box” we call earth. The author uses real-world case studies from familiar fields of investigation to foster a “life cycle” energy perspective and, perhaps, positively affect the thinking of engineers and designers in their work.