Like so many other questions, this one also has 2 answers:
No: engineering will always go against the environment
These days in order to make money you need to sell, buy, move and create things. Especially create, and especially things. You can also make money through services and related activities, but especially with things. More things equals more money. And more things also equals more waste, more pollution, more energy used…
Engineering is in charge of manufacturing things: plastics for yogourts, cars, pens, paper, smartphones, bikes, elevators, keys, glasses, electricity, X-ray machines, recycling machines or anything that can cross our minds.
The more you manufacture, more money. And since people always wants more money, let’s go and manufacture more. That is not sustainable, and therefore engineering will never be sustainable.
Yes: engineering can create a cleaner world.
“Why should be manufacture a squeezer? That’s not green: let people squeeze the fruits with their hands, they don’t need anything else to obtain juice. And no plastic involved!”
Nobody wants to make juice with their bare hands, right? And smartphones batteries are not very clean, but we all do want a smartphone, isn’t it so?
Engineering has improved our lifes. We must admit, for example, that cars have lots of benefits. But it’s also true that they’ve brought an environmental problem, and we must solve this. Following this example, cars must be lighter (do we really need 2000 kg to move a person of 70?!?), have cleaner engines (we’re filling our streets with chimenees!!) and must last longer: that’s the objective of engineering these days (or it should be one of its objectives, at least).
There’s part on this problem that belongs to the society: we should use public transport much more, and we’re not going to obtain that through engineering. But we’ll try to make cleaner, better, more confy buses and trains!
That’s what we believe in our Degree: we want to learn to use cleaner materials, lighter and that last longer, like bamboo or composites can be; we want to have clean air and waters, and we want to learn how to do that; we want to use less material in common products, and learn to recycle the one we’re using; we want to create clean, reusable and recyclable products that have a long life: we want to design them properly.
Will you help us?