Eco-manufacturing: how to make more things with less energy

Published on January 23rd, 2013 | by

Sustainable manufacturing has gained significant importance in the last few years. Due to the advances that have taken place in the last few decades, it is now easier for industries to shift the manufacturing process towards green machinery. Industrial units can be modified into sustainable models that are less damaging to the environment.

An example comes in the form of bio-fuels. The defining feature of Eco manufacturing is that it allows for an integrated industry model. By integrated, it means the waste can be broken down by microbial action to produce biomass in the form of bio-gas and bio fuel.

The textile industry can be revitalized by opting for natural fibers like hemp, organic cotton and bamboo. Machinery making leather alternatives are also a good option. Instead of opting for dyes that has a health hazard for the employees, it’s better to use enzymes that are far more efficient in activity. Textile processing in itself produces fumes and particles that can cause blockage in the lungs and also initiate cancer. The advantage with using hemp fiber is that pesticides are not required for its growth, which creates a dual Eco-friendly effect.

It’s possible for manufacturers to make small modifications to their existing machinery that would make a ‘greener effect’. For example, they can use biodegradable material like silicon and organic fibers that doesn’t produce any toxic remnants. Similarly, plastic producing industries can add small heat digesters that would convert the waste plastic to oil. This waste is a nuisance since it produces toxins like dioxin which cause a range of diseases. Solar panels can also be considered for energy production in manufacturing. While they are capital intensive, they’ll become cost-effective over time, giving a higher ROI. Not only can solar produce electricity for manufacturing, but new breakthroughs are also making the manufacture of solar panels more eco-friendly, as damaged wafers can be recognized before manufacturing begins now, showcasing the potential to save billions with greener manufacturing. Sugar Mills can add small distilleries which would convert their left over molasses to alcohol, which can be used as fuel.

The manufacturing of various parts ranging from surgical instruments to composite seals can be modified using green parts. If a company cannot afford to a replace a relatively new machine that is not up to “green” standards they might be able to greatly improve its performance by changing a few small parts. Companies like Apple Rubber specialize in tiny engine parts that could greatly increase efficiency. Biodegradable parts like connectors made from Eucalyptus can be added to older machinery. Usage of bamboo in furniture manufacturing is a green step against deforestation.

Eco-manufacturing is an emerging new best practice in manufacturing and other industries. Eco friendly machinery and installation of greener machinery parts would help to reduce companies’ overall carbon footprint.

green manufacturing image from Shutterstock

Jen Smith is a freelance green writer interested in energy intensity, eco-fashion, and healthy food. 

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