"Eco-Logical" Engineering: a teaching-research model to foster student’s paradigm thinking of wastes as commodities
Civilisation’s quality of living and vitality of their economy are inextricably linked to healthy ecosystems. Engineers harvest the earth’s biophysical resources and generate ensuing wastes, so are critical players for ensuring that ecosystems can support current and future sustainable civilisations. Educating future generations charged with mitigating environmental degradation through resource conservation is essential for sustainability to eventuate. This can be fostered through teaching ‘Eco-Logical’ Engineering. Natural Resources Engineering students at the University of Canterbury engaged in prescribed desk-top research to recognise capital in waste streams. Projects adopted decentralised engineering solutions in partnership with local ecosystems to ensure survival of the interdependent biotic and fiscal economies. All projects aligned with the core principles of Ecological Engineering with a particular focus on mass conservation and were contextual, real-world national problems. Students identified that sustainable engineering solutions in New Zealand require integrated technical robustness, promising cost-benefit returns and ecological connectivity. Pedagogical outcomes include helping equip students with the knowledge, technical insight, creativity and context required for challenging and complex problem-solving in the engineering profession.