Student: Emily Mastroly

Project: Are Creative Solutions Also Environmentally Sustainable? Investigating the Role of Creativity in the Design of Environmentally Sustainable Solutions

Poster: Horizontal (PDF) | Vertical (PDF)

Institution: Lafayette College

Major: Engineering Studies-Environmental Science / Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor: Rohan Prabhu


With the world’s natural resources being depleted at accelerating rates, the need for environmentally sustainable engineering solutions has become more dire than ever. Several researchers have proposed creativity as a pathway for realizing effective solutions to issues related to environmental sustainability; however, little research has investigated whether creative solutions are also environmentally sustainable. Specifically, we are unsure of how the components of creativity – i.e., uniqueness and usefulness – relate to the environmental sustainability of engineering design solutions. We aim to explore this research gap through an experimental study with novice designers comprising a design task. The solutions generated by the participants were evaluated for their creativity (i.e., uniqueness and usefulness) and their environmental sustainability, and the relationships between these two assessments were explored. From our results, we see that solutions which maximized utility and accessibility were highly useful, but also less unique. These findings suggest that when employing creativity as a mechanism to encourage sustainable design, it is more important to emphasize the usefulness of solutions compared to uniqueness. Moreover, while uniqueness can help realize some aspects of environmental sustainability, this effect might not hold for all aspects of environmental sustainability.

Keywords: sustainable design, creativity, design evaluation

Emily Mastroly

About Emily Mastroly

Emily Mastroly is currently a sophomore at Lafayette College, pursuing a dual degree in Engineering Studies and Environmental Science. Her strong interest in the relationship between humans and the natural environment made her excited to get involved as an EXCEL scholar in Dr. Rohan Prabhu’s KIDD (Knowledge and Individual Differences in Design) Lab. Positioned at the intersection of her two majors, Emily’s research focuses on defining the role of creativity in the design of sustainable solutions to environmental issues. In her free time, Emily enjoys reading, going on long runs, and spending time outside with friends.