U.S./Germany Lead the Way in Saving Earth's Resources

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Environmental Management and Auditing Schemes (EMAS) are becoming increasingly common in industrialized nations, as government officials respond to pressure from citizens and civic groups to protect and improve their share of Earth's limited resources.

A team of six WPI undergraduates spent seven weeks in Darmstadt, Germany, this spring completing an in-depth investigation of two distinct systems: American ISO 14000 programs and Germany's implementation of the European Union's EMAS. The students also examined differences in attitudes toward these systems in these countries.

The U.S. and Germany are considered world leaders in environmental policy development, say Timothy Bosco of Greenville, R.I., Rosanna Catricala of Wethersfield, Conn., Sean Duffy of Winchester, Mass., Chad Hart of Oak Ridge, N.J., Christopher Loconto of Worcester, formerly of Charlton, Mass., and Kristin St. John of Westfield, Mass. The students completed their work as their Interactive Qualifying Project, a WPI degree requirement.

There are significant differences between the two countries when it comes to awareness of threats to the environment. "Because they live in such a densely populated country and literally have nowhere to put their waste, Germans from all walks of life are willing and eager to act with environmental responsibility, including supporting the passage of laws that limit packaging and require companies to accept their products (including appliances and automobiles) for recycling when they can no longer function," says German Professor David Dollenmayer, who served as project co-advisor with Gerhard Stdrk, director of the Technical University of Darmstadt's Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Technology. "Americans, on the other hand, are insouciant and environmentally ignorant when compared with the Germans, although they are more aware than other peoples," says Dollenmayer.

But the picture is brightening. "While there are now only 121 companies certified with ISO 14000 in the United States, it is believed that the number will rise exponentially within the next decade," the students say. "With more than 1,178 certified companies participating in EMAS, Germany has completely dominated the environmental management front in the European Union. By providing incentives for businesses to implement EMAS, the German government is helping its businesses become international policy leaders."

The actions taken by German industry are especially relevant to American businesses because the countries share similar economies, the students note. "The strict legislation that is the backbone of EMAS should actually save money and boost markets in the long run because reducing the use of diminishing resources, recycling and designing better, safer products saves money and widens profit margins. Eventually this position in global environmentalism could pay huge dividends for Germany's overall competitiveness."

"By comparing the voluntary participation of American and German countries in environmental auditing schemes through background research and extensive interviews with American and German companies, the WPI project group developed a clear understanding of the differences in environmental awareness and policy between the two countries," says Dollenmayer. "Our students have returned home as advocates of increased American participation in EMAS."

The IQP is one of three projects all WPI undergraduates undertake as part of the innovative WPI Plan, a flexible and academically challenging program introduced in 1972. Under the Plan, students are provided with unique opportunities to integrate classroom studies with preprofessional academic projects conducted on campus or at companies, agencies and project sites in the U.S. and abroad. The purpose of the IQP is to make students aware of their responsibilities to manage technology effectively and ethically. About one-third of WPI's undergraduates complete their required projects with businesses and organizations at nearly two dozen locations in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, broadening their horizons, learning to work as professionals in other cultures, and seeing firsthand the role of science and technology in other countries.

"Traveling to Germany to complete the IQP was the most incredible experience I have ever had," says Bosco. "Aside from the IQP work, we were able to travel to 11 countries. After seeing the different faces, speaking the different languages, eating the different foods and making friends in another part of the world, I have truly expanded my outlook on life. If I learned anything from being here, it was that I am coming back!"

Bosco, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, is the son of Anthony and Arlene Bosco of Greenville, R.I. He graduated from Smithville High School. At WPI he is president and a former treasurer of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, has taken part in Big Brothers' Project Campfire, played varsity football for two years, is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and was recently tapped for Skull, the senior honor society.,/P>

Catricala, daughter of Thomas and Barbara Catricala of Wethersfield, Conn., is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. She is president of the WPI Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, vice president of membership development for Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, president of Club Italia, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Duffy, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, is the son of John and Donna Duffy of Winchester, Mass. He is a graduate of Winchester High School and is active in Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Hart, son of Brad and Suzanne Hart of Oak Ridge, N.J., is a graduate of West Milford High School. A WPI junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering, he is a member of Theta Chi fraternity and the martial arts club.

Loconto, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, is the son of Andrew and Judith Loconto of Charlton, Mass. He is a graduate of Holy Name Central Catholic High School in Worcester. St. John, daughter of Walter and Diane St. John of Westfield, Mass., is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. She is a graduate of Westfield High School. At WPI, she is a member of the cross country team, the lacrosse club, Alpha Phi Omega co-ed service fraternity, and the Society of Women Engineers.

An independent technological university founded in 1865, WPI is renowned for its project-based educational program. Under the WPI Plan, students are provided with unique opportunities to integrate classroom studies with preprofessional projects conducted on campus and at off-campus locations around the world.