Green manufacturing is a new way of looking at traditional production processes, which can emphasize replacing raw materials with recyclables, and the establishment of environmentally friendly practices within the manufacturing field.
Here is a simple example. It is actually cheaper to recycle aluminium than to mine bauxite and smelt aluminium. That’s green manufacturing.
Essentially it is the ‘greening’ of manufacturing, in which workers use fewer natural resources, reduce pollution and waste, recycle and reuse materials as much as possible, and reduce emissions in the process.
This allows companies to reduce their carbon footprint. As carbon taxes grow, this is becoming an important consideration.
How do you go green?
If you decide to make your business a green business, a good first step would be to work out your carbon footprint. Start with energy. Do you get your energy from sustainable sources? You could replace an oil boiler with a biomass boiler, and reduce your footprint slightly. An onsite windmill would make a big difference, but at a high initial cost.
Then look at your raw materials. Can you use recycled raw materials to reduce your footprint? What about your waste – can that be reduced, by reusing or recycling? If you use a lot of paper, can you make the office paper free? Can you switch your sales force to electric vehicles? Every company can find some way of reducing their carbon footprint.
Once you identify the size of your footprint, there are ways of going greener. Reducing your energy use, and finding ways of generating that energy through renewables, is a good start. Then you can look at energy efficiency. This can be as simple as insulating the roof to reduce the heating bill, and keeping the windows shut during winter. Small steps can produce big savings.
Next see how you can reduce pollution, and cut emissions of greenhouse gasses. Use clean machines, and maintain them well. Get experts such as those at CEC to help you reduce or eliminate waste materials. Collect, reuse, recycle or compost what you can.
Analyse your processes and see if you can conserve natural resources. And keep an eye on your impact on local agriculture, soil and water quality, and wildlife conservation.
Can you make manufacturing circular?
If you are serious about going green, you need to look at moving towards the circular economy. The old linear model involved sourcing raw materials, manufacturing your product, then dumping the waste in landfill. The circular economy involves reusing and recycling as much as possible, so that every bit of waste goes back into the manufacturing process, reducing costs and eliminating waste.
Opportunities abound for going circular. There are three strategies many companies use. The first is to focus on high quality recycling, so that there is no loss of materials, including critical raw materials.
The second strategy is to optimise use, so that everything can be used for longer. And the final strategy is to develop new business models, which focus more on function than product.
Here are a few examples that might not be relevant directly to your business, but which might set you thinking. This summer Adidas are launching a new shoe, Futurecraft Loop, which they say is ‘made to be remade’. It can be returned to Adidas, broken down, and will be reused to create new high performance running shoes.
Protix in Holland turns food waste into sustainable protein for fish and chicken, and for pets. It uses blackfly larvae, which feed on the waste, and which are then harvested as animal feed.
These are innovative ideas, and they take careful planning to put into place. They also cost, at least initially. But they show what is possible if a manufacturer wants to explore the circular economy.
How can manufacturing be made more sustainable?
At CEC we would be delighted to help your business become more sustainable. It starts by reducing your carbon footprint. Then you analyse your energy use. See what can be reused or recycled, and then reduce your final waste. It is often possible to shoot for Zero Waste to Landfill. This is a tangible goal, one which your customers will relate to. It is a great first step towards establishing your green credentials.
Finally, be honest.
This is vital – don’t be green on paper (actually, being green will eliminate paper!). Be green in fact.
Don’t try to greenwash your business. Greenwashing is the process of distorting the facts and making dubious claims to create a false impression of an environmentally sound business. Greenwashing is deceiving your customers. And when you get caught out, it will dent your reputation. Think of the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal.
Going green can be great for your business. It can save you money and build your reputation. But it takes commitment.
Call Tim on 085 255 6696 or Colin on 086 895 2680 to get started on your zero waste certification journey! We are also available on email@example.com so drop us an email with your business details and we will be happy to help.