Environmental Ethics Fellow 2012-13
What work are doing today and is it related to the environment?
I work as a product development engineer for a large medical device company. I design implants and surgical instruments that are used to fix complex bone fractures. Although this doesn’t relate to sustainability in the traditional sense, the core of my job is designing products that are built to last- whether they are implants that remain in the body for the lifetime of the patient, or instruments that must withstand surgical use and sterilization for hundreds of surgeries. There are many lower-resource settings that are still using surgical instrument sets that are more than twenty years old, so it’s important that we create solutions now that will continue to work for patients well into the future. So much of the tech world today focuses on “designing for now,” with the assumption that users will constantly discard solutions that they perceive to be out of date, so I suppose my small career contribution to sustainability is working in a field that prioritizes longevity.
How has your experience as an EEF shaped your post-graduate life?
My fellowship experience has shaped my life now in three ways: by instilling confidence, by encouraging my love of writing, and by reinforcing habits that contribute to a more sustainable world.
The year after I completed the fellowship, I had the opportunity to present my work at the IEEE Symposium for Ethics in Engineering. I believe I was the only student at the symposium, but the professors and technical experts there treated me as an equal. It made me realize that the body of work that I had assembled that year was valuable, and that with hard work, I was able to contribute to the field despite my relative lack of experience. I’ve since found out that a Penn State course uses my material, which I like to work into conversations at (nerdy) dinner parties!
Over the course of my fellowship year, I produced a lot of written content, including briefings about construction materials, an analysis of the solar decathlon competition, and a manifesto about sustainability. As an engineering student, it offered me a creative outlet that incorporated my technical mindset. It reminded me how much I enjoy writing, and I’ve continued that through my own personal blog these past few years. (Here’s an example of one of my science-related posts.)
Finally, although I’ve always been environmentally conscious, focusing on environmental ethics for a year made me more aware of the environmental consequences of my actions. Missy (Giorgi) Brenner and I coordinated an e-waste drive that year that diverted two tons of electronic waste away from landfills, and since then, I’ve been extra vigilant about making sure my electronics, and the e-waste of people around me, are properly recycled. I’m also conscious about the things I buy, since I’ve seen that the best way to reduce waste is to avoid purchasing items that will be discarded shortly after. Individual actions add up!
What does environmental ethics mean to you?
It means critically evaluating the way we treat the Earth and its resources and acting to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the life-giving benefits of a healthy planet.
Check out Allie's Environmental Ethics Project: