Two green manufacturing stories caught my eye this morning.

The first is the plan for a ‘Center for Green Technology at University of Toledo’ that was published yesterday.

“The proposed Great Lakes Center for Green Technology Manufacturing would help develop and commercialize renewable energy manufacturing processes, materials, and infrastructure,”

Senator Brown (D Ohio) said in a statement.

 

A provision in the Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Bill will fund the construction of the ‘Center’.However, President Bush has assured that he will veto the Bill if it gets to his desk.

There is strong support throughout Ohio for building the Center in hopes that Toledo can further their reputation since they are “already recognized as the solar manufacturing center of the U.S., and are hard at work developing wind, water, ethanol and bio-diesel clusters,” according to Toledo Mayor, Finkbeiner.

Now the second story, this one published today, announced that Ford motor company has chosen an Ontario company to lead a project that will help them avoid the harmful emissions created by burning off paint during the automobile manufacturing process.

The project:

‘was stimulated by $100 million in funding for the Oakville complex through the Ontario government’s Automotive Investment Strategy. “That’s real forward-looking thinking,” Kit Edgworth, the head of the Fumes to Fuel Project, says. “If it weren’t for the government money, Ford would have probably waited five years to embark on this project. And then it might have been located elsewhere.” ‘

The project, if it works, will turn the burned off chemicals from the painting process into fuel for the factory.

Personally, I can understand how the Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Bill can be considered a “costly bureaucracy and drive up the cost of coal-based energy without first making alternatives available,” as described by Sen. George Voinovich (R Ohio) but these stories came out one after another.

Ford, one of the largest manufacturers in America, is using a fast moving Canadian funded research team to reuse fumes as fuel, while at the same time a bill that could build a Center for Green Manufacturing in Ohio is headed for a veto.

So…either the bill neds to be re-written with more attractive numbers or more support for the bill is needed to convince Bush to approve it.

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This chapter starts into the mildly confusing rant about what is good and what is just “less bad”. They use the example of the book that is made the old way and the new one made from recycled material and soy based ink. Then the question is posed: is the new way really “good” or better?The problem they see is that the new book used a chemical covering, which “isnt’ recyclable with the rest of the book” and that the paper has about “reached the limits of further use” since the paper has been recycled again. It’s inherently not that great since it used trees to begin with.

They revisit this idea in later chapters when discussing, is being a vegetarian really that “good” if you eat vegetables that use chemicals and are transported long distances. It’s really just “less bad”.

At any rate, we then are introduced to book three, “the book of the future”, one that is durable enough to last for generations and the whole book can be recycled (and no tress were harmed in the making of it).

Their main point is that things should be “upcycled” it should be continually used and biodegrade if neccesary (or reused for a differant purpose). We have to consider that the stuff must either be used forever or be able to return back to the earth.

Further, the products themselves can use reworking but the factories and systems, which deliver them to consumers should also work together with the environment to provide a pleasurable experience for employees, who will then do more valuable work and the surviving eco system will not be harmed.

It’s hard to sum up this chapter completely, the authors cover so much and give so many great examples but all I can say is this:

Ants “represent a larger biomass than humans on earth”. Yet, they use the earth contribute to it, make it better, while at the same time thriving off of it. Ants live everywhere. We are no ants, but this chapter makes me think we should adopt the principles of the ants. The principles of contributing to the well-being of the earth while thriving off it.

This article from EWeek Mid Market centers on ways the smaller businesses can capitalize on green practices. Since most green concepts like solar panels and building retrofitting can be costly and the ROI’s long term, this article offers relativley quick changes your company can make, resulting in a shorter term ROI and green marketability.

They give five ways:

The first of which is recycling. Cradle to Cradle warns against what usually happends in this process, which is downcycling: the use of recycling makes us feel less bad and allows us to consume more, while most of it eventually ends up in a land fill or is burned off anyways. This Mid Market article, addresses the belief that the eventual recycling of your products should be taken into consideration before production in order to allow for more effective recycling oppurtunities.

Second, better management of heating and cooling can be regulated through up to date digital systems.

Third, use automated systems to shut down and stand by computers.

Fourth, the most expensive of the five, is virtualization:

VMware, the largest virtualization player by far…claims that for every server virtualized, customers can save about 7,000 kilowatt hours, or four tons of CO2 emissions, every year. It also claims that PCs virtualized and hosted on servers can reduce power consumption and cost by 35%.”

Also, fifth, “replace aging servers and PC’s” since newer models are extremely more efficient. This step can cost more but can dramatically reduce energy use.

Finally, they point out that businesses should check with utility companies to find out exactly what incentives they are offered. Be sure to figure in rebates when updating and determining costs.

Also, why not use Green Collar Economy to find green businesses that can help you, or ask another company who has made the changes what worked for them.

Thanks to Mid Market for publishing these profitable and efficient ideas.

Cradle to Cradle: Chapter 2 starts with the bleak visions of population growth made by Thomas Malthus at the end of the 18th century, where he predicted that humans wouldn’t have enough resources to sustain ourselves. They track environmental writings by authors like Marsh, Thoureau, Leopold, and the creation of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society. Then Silent Spring by Rachel Carson marked the true beginning of environmntal protection going mainstream.

As our machines have grown bigger in order to feed the needs of a rapidly growing population, some have tried to get across the point that we should use less stuff. The authors make the point that a commodity as scarce as oil should be saved only for emergencies. Solar energy should be able to sustain us if we use it in the right way.

Eco-efficiency is the key. A respect for natural ecosystems integrated with efficient manufacturing processes that suit the needs of everyone. And that includes everyone. “Reduce Reuse Recycle…and Regulate” is the next term the bring up. Regulation carries with it the fear of slowing down economic progress.

This quote about money, commerce and regulation rounds up a disappointing theme in manufacturing. It also may be a theme that can be changed through green initiatives, however.

“Money, the tool of commerce will corrupt the guardian. Regulation, the tool of the guardian, will slow down commerce. An example: a manufacturer might spend more money to provide an improved product under regulations, but its commercial customers, who want products quickly and cheaply, may be unwilling to absorb the extra costs. They may then find what they need elsewhere, perhaps offshore, where regulations are less stringent. In an unfortunate turnaround, the unregulated and potentially dangerous product is given a competitive edge.”

The beginning of Cradle to Cradle introduces us to the authors, William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Bill, the visionary and architect and Mike the Chemist and Activist, make a good team for illuminating the idea that we can have what we need and leave a planet for children forever.

I’m glad I have decided to read this book and it should be required reading for green manufacturers. It reads fast, does not baffle readers with complex systems. It lays out what is happening as far as harmful chemicals in everyday products, the negative ways that we dispose of old products, and much more.

Many companies are taking into consideration the needs of the planet. They have awoken to the fact that the ecosystem is changing, in part by the need to affordably produce goods for a large amount of people. If you’re reading this, or have read Cradle to Cradle, you already have some of understanding of how the movement towards sustinability is becoming the norm.

The opening chapter of the book takes us from the sinking of the Titanic (man losing to nature) and the Model T to, more recently, oil spills and mcmansion development designs. They don’t call anyone out per se but they do leave it up to the reader to grasp how our idea of progress is skewed.

The chapter ends by suggesting that we are already stepping in the right direction and will go on to describe the movements within the green economy . So tomorrow I, like the book, will take a look at them.

(Side note: as the green individual that I am, I requested the book from the library instead of buying a new one (I had to wait for it to be returned by someone else), I rode my bike to get it from the library, and I now read it while riding the bus to work everyday. Hopefully, Bill and Mike would be impressed by my efforts and I hope that we can all seek out ways to reduce our ecological footprints while we grow wealth)

According to AIN Online, in an effort to continue the life of airplane parts and materials after the planes have been retired, the Airbus company has made a commitment to ensuring that 85% of airplane parts are reused in some way.

Previously, a maximum of 65% was reused and the rest “destroyed” but  the French research project PAMELA (process for advanced management of end-of-life aircraft) has realized that 20% more can actually be recycled.

Airbus

“is now looking for ways to encourage the establishment of dismantling companies around the world…Of course, the more metal that can be extracted from the carcass for recycling, the more profitable will be the dismantling process, and advanced sorting of the metals at the source makes them more valuable than mixed metals.”

 

They explain in detail the process of first decommissioning the plane, removing the engine and turbines and such, followed by the final dismantling phase.

“Aware that some 1,200 Airbuses will be retired in the next 20 years, Airbus management has made planet-friendly aircraft dismantling part of the consortium’s general environmental policy.”

PAMELA also requests that the Airbus designers take into consideration this process in the first place to avoid later recycling efforts.

AlterNet commented today that

“even the most modest modeling indicates that the green economy holds much promise for urban and rural revitalization.”

These people deserve this. I am one of these people. A recent college graduate who wants to establish myself in American society, grow wealth in order to support a family and save enough for retirement.

Most American are among these people.

That’s why we see so much excitement in the ideas of Green for All and Apollo Alliance and Sustainable South Bronx. Urban Communities that see hope in the green possibilities in America.

That’s why rural communities who have relied on such things as coal plants and factories can rely on safe work environments again and, for some, for the very first time. These are the people that revitalizing America’s manufacturing base will really help.

It is starting to happen now. It needs to continue to happen infinitely, until the phrase ‘green economy’ is phased out by something better. ‘Great economy’ would be better, or ‘prosperous economy’ even.

 I have written this blog for business people to benefit. For people who are in charge of increasing efficiency and taking advantage of new technologies in order to raise their profit margins. I have written for the people who want to hear that green manufacturing CAN WIN in this age.

Maybe I should be writing for those who can find new financial freedom by getting a well paid job so that their home won’t be foreclosed or so they can buy diapers for their babies.

For the people who have lost their jobs and lost hope. Or for the people who felt from a young age that hope didn’t apply to them in the first place.

Maybe I should write for those people to realize that hope applies to everyone and that the opportunity is there for people like them.

If green revitalizes America’s manufacturing base, it can revitalize America’s working class base, give spending power back to the masses, and move our economy in the right direction.