Proctor Creek runs through northwest Atlanta, extending from I-20 in southwest Atlanta to the Chattahoochee River. An important piece of Atlanta’s natural environment, it also has a long history of neglect and pollution, which has negatively affected its surrounding communities. In this case study, read about this history, as well as new and ongoing development projects in West Atlanta that demand close attention to the Proctor Creek Watershed. Additionally, concepts like Environmental Justice and Citizen Science will provide a lens for thinking about issues related to the creek and how to protect its surrounding communities.
Are heat waves simply natural disasters over which we have no control? With heat waves set to increase over the coming decades, how can we fight this invisible killer? In this case study, head back to 1995 Chicago, when one of the deadliest heat waves in US history struck the city, killing hundreds. Learn about the demographics that were particularly vulnerable to the heat wave, and how those vulnerabilities made this heat wave (and others like it) not just a natural disaster, but a social one. After reading this case study and an interview transcript with one of the experts on the 1995 Chicago heat wave, turn to the Discussion Questions to think about how social networks and the built environment can protect us during heat waves now and in the future.
In preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) faced an unprecedented design challenge: create an 80,000 capacity stadium with the flexibility to be converted to a 25,000 capacity venue after the Games, and do this while achieving the ODA’s sustainability objectives. In the case study below, you’ll discover how they achieved the brief through innovative design and engineering. Furthermore, you’ll use this tool to learn more about how you, too, can make difficult design choices without compromising sustainability. To that end, this tool introduces you to the Multi-Criteria Decision Matrix, or, Values-based Decision Making.
Environmental Justice (EJ) is concerned with making sure that (a) no community takes on an unfair share of environmental burdens and (b) environmental benefits are shared in an equitable way regardless of race, class, gender, or orientation. The Environmental Justice Movement challenges environmental injustices, with a special focus on racial and class disparities, in the U.S. and around the globe. The purpose of this tool is to help students begin to understand:
What EJ is – and what environmental injustices are;
How the EJ movement works to address EJ issues (especially in the U.S. South, where the movement was born) with close attention to injustices related to race and class;
The different types of roles that scientists and engineers in particular can play in this work.
This tool was contributed by Jennifer Hirsch. We also want to thank Fatemeh Shafiei from Spelman College for contributing to this tool.
While recycling is a time-honored tradition of the environmentally-conscious, an equally powerful way to build sustainable communities is by learning to reuse and repair damaged materials. Maker culture, a version of DIY culture that delights in creation and repair, offers a model for sustainability. In this case study, follow the adventures of GT student Buzz as he sets out to repair his bike using two Georgia Tech Maker Spaces: The Starter Bikes bike repair cooperative, and the Invention Studio. By learning how to restore his bike, Buzz empowers himself to live a sustainable life in another important way: as a bike commuter. Read on to consider the intersections of maker culture and sustainable transportation.
This tool was contributed by Arkadeep Kumar, Bob Myers, and Bethany Jacobs.
This tool explores the principle that environmental health impacts are a function of the inherent risk multiplied by exposure. In chemical processes we have become better at managing inherent risk, but we also have a significant legacy of mismanagement. One such example occurred in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where local politician Harold Mitchell and community organization ReGenesis tackled the problem of their community's long-term exposure to hazardous waste.
The tool below uses a video of Rep. Mitchell to explain the events in Spartanburg. It explores how local chemical plants mismanaged and deliberately covered up risks, nearly leading to a chemical disaster that they were not equipped to contain. Through this activity, you will explore and discuss how chemical engineering professionals should respond to similar situations, and what responsibilities such professionals have to the communities around them.
In this case study, gas and electric utility holding company Southern Company has embarked on an ambitious experiment to learn more about energy usage at a household level, as well as community-scale microgrids. Every minute, sixty-two homes in Reynolds Landing upload appliance level data to Southern Company. How can Southern Company use this vast amount of data to promote energy efficiency? Are microgrids a key to creating a more sustainable and resilient energy future? How can microgrids impact or change traditional power generation business models like those used by Southern Company? Read on to learn more and consider what kinds of experiments you would run if this was your project.
The Georgia Tech Sustainability Timeline offers a detailed portrait of the university's commitment to sustainability, from humble beginnings to its introduction of major initiatives like Serve-Learn-Sustain. This tool pairs the Timeline with a Guided Discussion strategy known as ORID (Observe, Reflect, Interpret, Decide). Using ORID, you will generate productive conversations about the University's past, present, and future as a leader of sustainability.
You can use the ORID framework to guide almost any conversation, in the classroom or the workplace. Read more about it here.
This tool was contributed by Bethany Jacobs and Delaney Rickles.
This tool provides instructors with a focused reflective activity that asks students to make connections between their course and a co-curricular activity. Reflection related to co-curricular activities gives students time and space to critically examine the activity and understand its relevance to their learning in class. Some of the reflection questions require adaptation to suit course objectives.
The Flint Water Crisis is one of the most significant instances of environmental injustice in the 21st century. In this case study, read about the impact of the crisis on the natural world, as well as the residents of Flint, Michigan, and learn about how we can use technology to create a safe, sustainable water system. Serve-Learn-Sustain interprets sustainable communities as integrated systems, wherein nature, technology and society all inform each other. As you read this case study, consider these terms as discrete factors, but also as connected.