Definitions of Green Engineering

Green engineering is “the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products, which are feasible and economical while minimizing 1) generation of pollution at the source and 2) risk to human health and the environment.” [Source: US EPA Green Engineering Program]

The State of Michigan Green Chemistry Program’s definition for green chemistry is inclusive of green engineering; Green chemistry ”…means chemistry and chemical engineering to design chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances while producing high quality products through safe and efficient manufacturing processes.” [Source: Executive Directive 2006-6]

   Principles of Green Engineering

Anastas & Zimmerman 12 Principles of Green Engineering

  1. Inherent Rather Than Circumstantial
    Designers need to strive to ensure that all materials and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently non-hazardous as possible.


  2. Prevention Instead of Treatment
    It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.


  3. Design for Separation
    Separation and purification operations should be designed to minimize energy consumption and materials use.


  4. Maximize Efficiency
    Products, processes, and systems should be designed to maximize mass, energy, space, and time efficiency.


  5. Output-Pulled Versus Input-Pushed
    Products, processes, and systems should be “output pulled” rather than “input pushed” through the use of energy and materials.


  6. Conserve Complexity
    Embedded entropy and complexity must be viewed as an investment when making design choices on recycle, reuse, or beneficial disposition.


  7. Durability Rather than Immortality
    Targeted durability, not immortality, should be a design goal.


  8. Meet Need, Minimize Excess
    Design for unnecessary capacity or capability (e.g., “one size fits all”) solutions should be considered a design flaw.


  9. Minimize Material Diversity
    Material diversity in multi-component products should be minimized to promote disassembly and value retention.


  10. Integrate Material and Energy Flows
    Design of products, processes, and systems must include integration and interconnectivity with available energy and materials flows.


  11. Design for Commercial “Afterlife”
    Products, processes, and systems should be designed for performance in a commercial “afterlife.”


  12. Renewable Rather Than Depleting
    Material and energy inputs should be renewable rather than depleting.

Sandestin Principles of Green Engineering [2] [*]

  1. Engineer processes and products holistically, use systems analysis, and integrate environmental impact assessment tools.
  2. Conserve and improve natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-being.
  3. Use life-cycle thinking in all engineering activities.
  4. Ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently safe and benign as possible.
  5. Minimize depletion of natural resources.
  6. Strive to prevent waste.
  7. Develop and apply engineering solutions, while being cognizant of local geography, aspirations, and cultures.
  8. Create engineering solutions beyond current or dominant technologies; improve, innovate, and invent (technologies) to achieve sustainability.
  9. Actively engage communities and stakeholders in development of engineering solutions.


[1] Anastas, P. T.; Zimmerman, J. B., “Design through the Twelve Principles of Green Engineering.” Environmental Science and Technology, 37 (5): 94A-101A, 2003 [PDF].Cited by the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute®

[2] Abraham, M.A. and Nguyen, N. (2003) “Green engineering: Defining the principles” – resdts from the sandestin conference; Environmental Progress, 22(4): 233-236 [Abstract]. Cited by the US EPA Green Engineering Program.

[*] These principles were developed by 65 engineers and scientists at the “Green Engineering: Defining the Principles” Conference; Sandestin Resort, Sandestin, Florida; May 18-22, 2003; sponsored by Engineering Conferences International. [Program]