Technology and Sustainability

Organizations are aware of the need to reduce their carbon footprints. Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to becoming an environmentally friendly and socially responsible business. This course helps companies understand what they need to do in order to operate greener and achieve their goals.

You'll learn about important industry issues and trends from multiple perspectives, and at different scales, and explore: 

  • Which solutions have the greatest ability to effect change
  • How to implement strategies in the most efficient and effective way, valuing economic and natural resources,
  • What impact technological advances such as 3D printing, process intensification, and autonomous vehicles may have on sustainability efforts
  • How to manage conflicting goals, such as, longer life products (circular economy) versus rapid product development (re-industrialization).

The class uses our book Thermodynamics and the Destruction of Resources (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and builds on these topics from a solid basis. Examples will be taken from diverse areas but with special attention to current and emerging chemical and manufacturing processes and product analysis. Participants are encouraged to bring sample cases for discussion and class will include time for hands-on LCA demonstrations.

Note: This course was previously titled "Energy, Sustainability, and Lifecycle Assessment."

Lead Instructor(s): 

Timothy Gutowski


TBD 2019

Course Length: 

3 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Closed

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

Registration for the 2018 session has closed. We'll open for the 2019 session this fall.

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: 

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.

Computer Requirements:

Laptops with the ability to run openLCA are required.

Program Outline: 


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

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

10:30 am – 10:45am: Break

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

  • Sustainability from different perspectives
  • Sustainability at different scales: attempts to quantify

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch Break (on your own)

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

  • Technology and economic Development
  • Supply and Demand Challenges
  • Discussion and evaluation

3:00 pm – 3:15 pm: Break

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

  • 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


8:30 am – 9:00 am: Breakfast

9:00 am – 10:30 am: Energy for Sustainable Development (Sekulic)

  • Energy and materials resources (global and local scales, scale/system selection, fossil and renewable); 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)
  • Exergo-economic concepts
  • Examples of exergy losses’ calculations for selected technologies, allocation of internal and external losses

10:30 am – 10:45 am: Break

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

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

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch (on your own)

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

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

3:00 pm – 3:15 pm: Break

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

  • 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)
  • Life cycle costing
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem Services in LCA


8:30 am – 9:00 am: Breakfast

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

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

10:30 am – 10:45 am: Break

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

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

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch (provided)

1:30 – 3:00: Solution Approaches and Case studies

  • MIT Case Study

3:00 pm – 3:15 pm: Break

3:15 pm – 4:00 pm: Final Session

  • Final thoughts, open discussion, distribution of certificates

4:00 pm: ADJOURN

References are listed on this page so that participants can read further if desired. The textbook will be handed out on the first day of class.

“Text” refers to:
Bakshi, B. R., Gutowski, T. G., and Sekulic, D. P., Thermodynamics and the Destruction of Resources, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2011. This will be given out on the first day of class.

Suggested pre-reading resources include:

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.

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.

Hendricson, C. T., Lave, L. B., and Matthews, H. S., Environmental Assessment of Goods and Services; An Input-Output Approach, Resources for the Future, 2006.

Hertwich, E. G., Peters, G. P., Carbon Footprint of Nations: A Global Trade-linked Analysis, Env. Sci. Technol. 43, 6414-6420, 2009.

Rockström, J., Safe Operating Space for Humanity, Nature, Vol. 461, 24 Sept. 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 of a North American Residential System, Env. Sci. Technol., 47, 2985-1993, 2013.

Course Schedule: 

View 2018 Course Schedule (pdf)

Class runs 9:00 am - 4:45 pm each day except for Wednesday when it ends at 4:00 pm. On the final day lunch will be provided.

Evening activities, including dinner on Tuesday, are included in tuition.

Participants’ Comments: 


"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."


"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."


"I will start using the knowledge gained in order to improve the analysis tools and schemes in place for corporate reporting and environmental project evaluation and management."


"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!"



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We can also offer this course for groups of employees at your location. Please complete the Custom Programs request form for further details.


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


Delivery Methods: 

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




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