Carnegie Mellon University

The Green Design Institute, originally the Green Design Initiative, began in the early 1990’s with the goal of changing the practice of environmental engineering and management. Rather than being reactive to clean up pollution, the goal was to reduce environmental impacts during the design of products and industrial processes. Founding faculty included Chris Hendrickson (systems engineering), Francis McMichael (environmental engineering) and Lester Lave (business and economics). Bosch, Ford Motor Company, IBM and the National Science Foundation provided early support. 

The Green Design Institute became a primary interdisciplinary education and research effort at Carnegie Mellon University to improve environmental quality through green design. The central strategy of the institute was to form partnerships with companies, government agencies and foundations to develop pioneering design, management, manufacturing, and regulatory processes that could improve environmental quality and product quality while enhancing economic development. 

The initiative pioneered new methods of life cycle assessment, such as the widely used economic input-output life cycle assessment approach. Dozens of students from many different degree programs at Carnegie Mellon participated in the Green Design Initiative education and research activities, including students from architecture, business, computer science, engineering, public policy, and robotics. Notable applications included vehicle design, power generation, lighting, and buildings. 

After two decades of successful research and education on pollution prevention, material flow analysis, life cycle assessment, and industrial ecology, the Green Design Institute is transitioning to a new focus area. Our vision is to make the Green Design Institute the home of research and education at CMU on issues related to global development.