Donald Trump said, “As long as you’re going to think anyways, THINK BIG.”

At first, Saturn of Indiana’s manufacturing plant didn’t think they could achieve zero landfill status, but by setting the goal and thinking big, they were able to take the neccesary steps to that mark. OK, I know Trump wasn’t refering to zero landfill status when he talked about thinking big, but you get the point.

Industry Week published a few briefs dated July 1 (so I’m assuming the articles are coming out in a to be released paper issue) and it caught my green-manufacturing eye.

I think the tone of the articles are a sign of green becoming commonplace. The magazine describes the necessity of green practices and its benefits while barely even mentioning the planet, or our climate. They just highlight companies that have made efforts to contribute zero waste to landfills: in Subaru of Indiana’s case, done in part by making sure materials are used again and that the byproduct of byproducts are sent for recycling.

Subaru also hired Allegiant Global to help them keep up with their zero waste goals because assafety and environmental compliance manager Denise Coogan, Subaru of Indiana says.

“We’re in the car making business, not the waste management business,” 

“Allegiant finds us places to recycle our material.”

And they do this by doing three primary things:

 

“on-site collection and sorting of recyclable materials,

advice on using recyclable and reusable materials,

and creation of markets for manufacturing byproducts. “

 This is the kind of thing the Green Collar Economy B2B Directory was made for. Finding companies like this that can help you save money and reduce waste.

 

Industry Week also highlights another large corporation, Frito-Lay, which has created their very own Department of Energy, which allowed them to better develop an off grid energy plan.

 

With progression like this, the planet benefits while you, the manufacturer, benefits. The attraction of a green economy is the idea that it could actually create a stronger economy while we making the necessary changes needed to preserve earth.

An important lesson to learn from these stories is that they never thought “zero waste”, or “net zero” would happen at such a large plant or at such a large scale but by taking the right steps in the right direction, it gradually became a reality.

As a general rule, it’s a great idea to aim high. Even if you think zero waste or even carbon neutrality is not possible, aim for it anyways, set a deadline and try to get as close to it as you can. Even if you don’t hit the number you expected, you will be headed in the right direction.

 

I usually don’t comment on stories from Grist here. However, they published an article about a significant transition towards a green economy, so I’m breaking with that tradition today. It has shown a clear identifier of where our priorities are headed and, quite frankly, what makes more business sense.

As many people have heard or read about, General Motors recently closed a Wisconsin plant that produced SUV’s and Pick up trucks.

As many have not heard about, the high speed train industry is the most underfunded part of transportation in America, way behind highway construction.

However, a high speed train network using several hubs across the country is being planned.

At the same time, factories that make gas guzzlers are closing and trucking companies are protesting gas prices.

This transportation shift is a clear example of the ensuing transition to a cleaner, greener economy. This shift will also help manufacturing is a few big ways.

1.       With more high speed rail shipping, to and from Midwest cities and outward, factories will have a cheaper more efficient way to deliver goods.

2.       Trucking companies won’t be relied on for longer distances. They will be able to make more local stops, stay regionalized, and create a better work environment for drivers.

3.        Less trucks means less pollution and it also means less fuel cost to manufacturers looking to ship.

4.       The construction of this project will be immense and the upkeep will employ workers for a long time. Manufacturing of railway material and trains would be extremely difficult to outsource.

5.       The creation of new trains can take advantage of advances in sustainable technology allowing for the materials reused time and again.

Also, the basis of the Grist article is revolved around a quote by Barack Obama,

“the fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America’s future — and I believe that’s a fight this country will win.”

So do I.

It a bit of a controversial story, a Hornell, New York factory has proposed that they switch to a 10 hour per day, four day workweek. This sounds great at the onset. Three day weekends every week; fewer commutes, which will save on gas; and only four days that the factory has to be open, which will save them energy costs as well.

The problem is the overtime availability. You can’t please all of the people all the time and 49 out of 600 people said they would not prefer the four day work week. One reason is that some feel their overtime opportunities will be taken away, and that this is really just the factory avoiding having to pay for that extra cost.

Personally, I think a four day work week is a great idea. It could become even more common in the green economy as businesses look to save on energy and assist their workers with transportation costs. There will be no decision, though, until the factory manager makes an official written proposal and the Union has its say.

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.

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)

I finally watched The Story of Stuff, the 20 minute web movie about, well, The Story of Stuff. Maybe I’m the last person but I’m glad I finally took the time to watch it.

So informative and didn’t seem too lean to far to the green side of business. It really just laid out the reality that we only have one planet and we are using and wasting resources at an alarming rate. If not for our behavior just for the sheer number of people on the planet.

Obviously this affects manufacturing and it brings me back to the “Cradle to Cradle” concept, which is that we can’t have a linear production system. Part of green manufacturing is that the products that are produced must have a definite destination once they are done being used.

Since, as pointed out in The Story Of Stuff, we are a consumer society that thrives on using things for a while and then throwing them away, the manufacturing of the stuff must take this into consideration as well.

Once whatever you make heads to a consumer, where is its final resting place. In the Green Collar Economy, this question must be answered before it is even made. Will it be recycled? Will it be incinerated? Will it last for a long time? Was it made to last for a short time so that people buy more?

The true green manufacturers take this into consideration and ethics and corporate responibilty are critical points that sometimes conflict with the almighty dollar.

That’s why we’re working toward profitable sustainability