Course is closed
Lead Instructor(s)
On Campus
Course Length
3 Days
Course Fee
1.9 CEUs

This class explores the complex relationship between technology and sustainability quantitatively and at multiple scales; from products, to organizations, to the world. After a brief review of alternative views, we focus on energy and materials usage, and carbon emissions as key variables. Trajectories across history and geography reveal clear behavioral patterns as well as opportunities.

Participant Takeaways

  • Understand how to calculate, evaluate, monitor and quantify carbon, and other resource footprints at different scale
  • Assess different technologies and which approaches work best for specific goals
  • Explore new approaches, promising products, services and opportunities for innovation 
  • Gain insights on impact of emerging technologies and trends, as well as the potential effects of global trade
  • Get an overview of different energy sources: traditional and transformational
  • Learn how to design and implement new processes and systems that promote sustainability in the most economically feasible, societally acceptable and environmentally sustainable way

Who Should Attend

This class is intended for professionals from manufacturing, design, energy, and sustainability practicing in industry, government and non-profits, as well as for academics (faculty, researchers, and graduate students). Participants are encouraged to bring sample cases for discussion and class will include time for hands-on LCA demonstrations. Participants should have a bachelor's or higher degree in engineering.


Laptops with the ability to run openLCA are required.

Program Outline

Day 1

1.1 Introduction and Outline (Gutowski) 9:00 am – 10:30 am

  • Meet and greet, discuss outline, goals of the class
  • Technology and development

Resources: R.C. Allen 2011 (Full references are given at the end of this outline.)

Break: 10:30 a.m. – 10:45a.m. Coffee Break 

1.2 Sustainability and Technology (Gutowski) 10:45 am – 12:15 pm

  • Sustainability at different scales: attempts to quantify
  • Technology Evaluation, LCA, MFA, Footprints, Framework

Resources:  Text Chapter 19, Rockström, 2009

Lunch Break: 12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.  – (on your own)

1.3 Technology and Sustainability (Gutowski) 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

  • Technology Evaluation
  • “There is no such thing as a green product”
  • “Autonomous taxis can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions”
  • Discussion and evaluation

Resources: Zink & Geyer 2016, Greenblatt & Saxena 2015.

Break: 3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. (Refreshments provided)

1.4 Key Thermodynamic Concepts (Sekulic) 3:15 – 4:45

  • Revisiting the meaning/determination of energy, available energy (exergy), and associated fundamental thermodynamic concepts for open/closed systems
  • Evaluation of physical and chemical exergy, calculation procedures, identification of the environment for a considered system for reference states
  • Examples of exergy calculation for energy interactions (heat and work) and flow exergies of material streams

Resources: Text Chapters 1, 2, 4, 6

Day 2

2.1 Energy for Sustainable Development (Sekulic) 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.

  • Energy resources (global and local scales, scale/system selection); Energy flows (Sankey) and exergy flows (Grassmann) at different systems’ scales
  • Energy conversion efficiencies, traditional and transformational technologies; Theoretical (Thermodynamics) limits
  • Energy/exergy flows and balances (e.g., materials processing and manufacturing)
  • Examples of exergy losses’ calculations for selected technologies, allocation of internal and external losses

Resources: Text Chapters 5, 8, 11, 15; Smil, V., (2008) Chapters 2, 8, 10, 11; Allwood, J.M. and Cullen, (2012) Parts 1 and 2

Break: 10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

2.2 LCA Methods & Examples (Bakshi) 10:45 – 12:15

  • Methodology, ISO 1400 guidelines
  • Process LCA
  • Input/output methods (expanding boundaries using physical and financial flows)
  • Energy analysis

Resources:  Chapters 8, 9, 14 from Bakshi (2018); Text Chapters 14

Lunch Break:  12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. (On your own)

2.3 Advanced LCA: Open LCA & Energy Analysis (Bakshi) 1:30 – 3:00

  • Introduction to Open LCA and in-class exercise
  • Input-Output LCA

Resources: Hendrickson et al., 2006

Break:  3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. (Refreshments provided)

2.4 Advanced LCA: MRIO, Consequential LCA, Ecosystem Services (Bakshi) 3:15 – 4:45

  • Demonstrations of new LCA methods including multi-regional input-output (MRIO) models to assess effects of global trade, consequential LCA (e.g. ethanol and land use)
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem Services in LCA

Resources:, Hertwich and Peters 2009, Chapter 15 of Bakshi (2018)

Day 3

3.1 Design for Sustainability (Bakshi) 9:00 – 10:30

  • Design as optimization
  • Life cycle design of processes
  • Integrated design of technological and ecological systems
  • Opportunities for innovation
  • Applications

Resources: Urban and Bakshi, 2013, Gopalakrishnan and Bakshi, 2017

Break: 10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

3.2 Solutions approaches (Gutowski) 10:45 am – 12:15 pm

  • Substitution, efficiency, and end-of-pipe treatment
  • Technology Wedge diagrams
  • Carbon taxes and markets
  • Behavior: rebound, automobile & behavior

12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch (boxed lunches provided)

3.3 Discussion (ALL) 1:30 – 3:00

Possible Topics (participants vote):

  • TG – 3D printing , EU and circular economy, carbon neutrality at Universities, Ethics
  • DS - A view of sustainability as the state of a system: the role of Thermodynamics and “planetary boundaries”, Energy Analysis for Buildings
  • BB – Societal and cultural aspects, State of Ohio nutrient trading system

Break: 3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

3.4 Final Session 3:15 – 4:00

Final thoughts, open discussion, distribution of certificates

4:00 p.m.: ADJOURN    

Other Instructors

Links & Resources

“Text” refers to:

  • Bakshi, B.R., Gutowski, T.G., and Sekulic, D.P., Thermodynamics and the Destruction of Resources, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. 2011.

Suggested resources include:

  • Allen, RC, Global Economic History, Oxford Press 2011.
  • Allwood, J.M. and Cullen, J.M. Sustainable Materials – With Both Eyes Open, UIT Cambridge, Ltd., UK. 2012.
  • Ashby, M.F. Materials and the Environment Second Ed. Butterworth-Heinemann, London 2013.
  • Bakshi, B. R., Sustainable Engineering: Principles and Practice, in preparation, Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • Gopalakrishnan, V., Bakshi, B. R., Ziv, G. Assessing the capacity of local ecosystems to meet industrial demand for ecosystem services. AIChE Journal, 62(9):3319–3333, 2016.
  • Greenblatt, J.B. and Saxena, S. Autonomous taxis could greatly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from light-duty vehicles Nature Climate Change, Vol 5, September 2015. 
  • Gutowski, T.G. Sahni, S., Allwood, J. Ashby M., Worrell, E.  The Energy Required to Produce Materials:  Constraints on Energy Intensity Improvements, Parameters of Demand. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A. 371, 2013.
  • Hendrickson, C.T., Lave, L.B. and Matthews, H.S., Environmental Assessment of Goods and Services: An Input-Output ApproachResources for the Future, 2006.
  • Hertwich, E.G., Peters, G.P. Carbon Footprint of Nations: A Global Trade-linked Analysis. Env. Sci. Tchnol. 43, 6414-6420, 2009.
  • Rockström, J. et al, Safe Operating Space for Humanity, Nature, Vol. 461, 24 September, 2009.
  • Smil, V. Energy in Nature and Society, General Energetics of Complex Systems, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 2008.
  • Urban, R.A., Bakshi, B.R., Techno-Ecological Synergy as a Path Toward Sustainability in a North American Residential System. Env. Sci. Technol. 47, 2985-2993, 2013.
  • Zink, T. and Geyer, R. There is No Such Thing as a Green Product, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2016.



"My experience at MIT this summer was fantastic. Taking this class allowed me to get re-energized about the topic of sustainability and to increase my understanding of some technical topics. I look forward to participating in future Short Programs at MIT."
"It was a wonderful opportunity to broaden my perspective to the issue of sustainability and lifecycle improvement. I met very interesting people with whom I will communicate in the future to achieve creating knowledge networks in order to develop research projects and continue working about this subject."
"The faculty are wonderful people who clearly care a great deal about the subject matter and are inspired to share it with students. I really loved the dinner we had together and other opportunities for individual conversations. I also liked how they encouraged class participation in discussion and questions. I left with very warm feelings about this class and the faculty. Thank you!"
"The course materials (slides) provided a summary while the textbook provided comprehensive information about the subject. I found both of them very useful and continue to refer to them at work."

The type of content you will learn in this course, whether it's a foundational understanding of the subject, the hottest trends and developments in the field, or suggested practical applications for industry.

Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools - 30%|Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends - 25%|Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world - 30%|Other: Decision making and designing for change - 15%
Delivery Methods

How the course is taught, from traditional classroom lectures and riveting discussions to group projects to engaging and interactive simulations and exercises with your peers.

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format - 60%|Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning - 20%|Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations - 20%

What level of expertise and familiarity the material in this course assumes you have. The greater the amount of introductory material taught in the course, the less you will need to be familiar with when you attend.

Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience - 25%|Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field - 55%|Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level - 20%