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Act for Change Food

From 12 to 30 November, EPFL invites all students, teachers and collaborators to participate in the Challenge Act for Change. The idea is, through simple actions, to experiment a more sustainable way of life on campus. This year, the the

More cargobikes on campus

In June 2017, Sustainable Campus deployed three electric cargobikes in self-service on EPFL campus, the first ones in Switzerland. After one year, the results are extremely positive with more than 10'000 km covered in total and more than

Coming events from Sustainable Campus

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A sustainable materials system research agenda

Modern society is unsustainable: biodiversity loss is occurring at an unprecedented rate; anthropogenic activities dominate material cycles, putting upward pressure on resource supply; and the industrial system is forcing Earth’s climate towards the brink of a critical transition, on a scale never before experienced by humans. Facts such as these highlight the imperative for transformational change to the industrial system and also the materials basis of modern society. Traditional materials research approaches focus on improving properties and performance of individual technologies at relatively high technical detail. On the other hand, common sustainable engineering methods such as material flow analysis and life cycle assessment are used to study material and product systems at relatively low technical detail. In this talk I present a sustainable materials system research agenda. This agenda aims to address key contemporary sustainability challenges like climate change mitigation by integrating deep technical analysis of material technologies into a whole systems modelling perspective. I will focus on cement related materials such as concrete: this material is responsible for ~50% of all materials extraction and 8-9% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, yet also provides unique opportunities for beneficial use of industrial by-products and wastes.
References accompanying the talk

  1. Lothenbach, B.; Kulik, D.A.; Matschei, T.;, Balonis, M.; Baquerizo, L.; Dilnesa, B.; Miron, G.D.; Myers, R.J. Cemdata18: A chemical thermodynamics database for hydrated Portland cements and alkali-activated materials. Cem. Concr. Res., 115, 472-506 (2019).
  2. Myers, R.J.; Fishman, T.; Reck, B.K.; Graedel, T.E. Unified materials information system (UMIS): an integrated material stocks and flows data structure. J. Ind. Ecol.,
  3. Fishman, T.; Myers, R.J.; Rios, O.; Graedel, T.E. Implications of emerging vehicle technologies on rare earth supply and demand in the United States. Resources, 7(1), 9 (2018).
  4. Olivetti, E.A.; Cullen, J.M. Toward a sustainable materials system. Science, 360(6396), 1396-1398 (2018).
Bio: Rupert J. Myers is a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering: Industrial Ecology at the University of Edinburgh. His scholarly journey through various engineering and science disciplines, from Melbourne to Sheffield, EMPA, Berkeley, Yale, MIT, and Edinburgh, has been driven by a mission to reduce environmental burdens through sustainable engineering. He currently champions this mission by leading University learning in industrial ecology, and by focussing his research on globally pervasive materials that are virtually unmatched in importance to society, such as cement and metals. In 2015 he was awarded the Mike Sellars Medal for best PhD thesis in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Materials Science & Engineering.

By: Dr Rupert Myers, Chemical Engineering: Industrial Ecology, University of Edinburgh

Prof. Julia K. Steinberger
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GR C0 01

EESS talk on "Well-being and climate change mitigation: the Living Well Within Limits approach"

The challenge of achieving universal human development and climate change mitigation requires careful consideration of (1) the definition of a “good”, happy or decent life; (2) analytic clarity in conceptualising the consumption requirements of well-being; (3) the context surrounding intra- and inter-national inequality, and the political dynamics and social processes that could enable the prioritisation of human well-being alongside limiting consumption within emission budgets. This talk will put forward novel approaches and recent results from the Living Well Within Limits project, including discussion of new activist and policy directions for climate action.

By: Dr Julia K. Steinberger, Professor of Social Ecologiy and Ecological Economics at the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds, Faculty of Environment, School of Earth and Environment, UK. Her research examines the connections between resource use (energy and materials, greenhouse gas emissions) and societal performance (economic activity and human wellbeing). She has a PhD in Physics from MIT in the USA, and subsequently worked at the Universities of Lausanne, Zurich, and the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna. She is the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award for her research project 'Living Well Within Limits' <>and a Lead Author for the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report.

Dr Steven Gorelick, Stanford, USA
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GR C0 01

EESS talk on "Analysis of the Future of Freshwater Resources of Jordan: From Transboundary Competition to Climate Change"

In arid regions throughout the world, freshwater system are at the confluence of drivers that include severely limited water supplies, rapid population growth and demographic shifts, transboundary competition for shared freshwater resources, climate change and variability, and institutional dysfunction. Our work focuses on Jordan, which is one of the water poorest countries in the world. We adopt a multi-agent modeling framework to allow for the incorporation of institutional complexity in evaluation of policy instruments aimed at improving Jordan’s freshwater situation. The model employs a modular approach, integrating biophysical modules that simulate natural and engineered phenomena with human modules that represent behavior at multiple scales of decision making. The human modules in turn adopt a multi-agent simulation approach, defining agents as autonomous decision makers at the government, administrative, organizational, and user levels. Our approach evaluates policy interventions under a suite of scenarios that enable comparison of future freshwater options.

By: Dr Steven Gorelick, Professor, Stanford University, Dept. of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, USA - visiting professor at ETHZ At Stanford University, Steven Gorelick holds the Cyrus F. Tolman Chaired Professorship in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences and is a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. He runs the Hydro Program in the Dept. of Earth System Science. At Stanford since 1988, Professor Gorelick directs the Global Freshwater Initiative, and his two primary areas of research are water resources in developing countries and ecohydrology. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.