Today, more manufacturers are considering environmental impact when choosing materials, as consumers increasingly demand greener, more sustainable products. But what exactly makes a product green? Those that have the following attributes may be more environmentally friendly.
Sustainably Sourced Products
Some materials certified as sustainably sourced, meaning they get produced or gathered in a way that takes into account environmental and other impacts. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies manufactured wood products. If a wood product has FSC certification, you can be confident it came from a well-managed forest.
In addition, other organizations review and certify other products. Some products, including bamboo, cork, rubber and cotton, are rapidly renewable because of how quickly they regenerate.
Locally Sourced Products
When materials sourced locally, they have reduced environmental impact from transport. Shipping products has substantial ecological effects due to emissions associated with transportation.
Under criteria for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, products from within 500 miles considered regionally sourced.
Reduced Material Use
Some materials that aren’t especially green on their own may be considered as such. For example, if they cut the amount of materials needed for a project. This action thereby conserving resources. For example, using drywall clips means you don’t need corner studs. Using concrete pigments to make regular concrete into attractive flooring means you don’t have to use more resources to cover the concrete with other kinds of flooring.
Using recycled materials greatly reduces environmental impact, because it reduces the need to manufacture, mine or otherwise acquire new materials. Materials may include
- Pre-consumer recycled content: recycled materials that have not yet reached the consumer, namely industrial byproducts
- Post-consumer recycled content: materials recycled after use by consumers
- Products made from agricultural waste: items made from agricultural byproducts such as straw and citrus oil
- Salvaged products: old products that are reused as a new product or part of a new product
It’s also important that manufacturers use materials that can readily be recycled after the product has reached the end of its useful life.
Most noteworthy, using materials and manufacturing products that will last a long time is another way. A way to increase the environmental friendliness of your operations. Using durable materials means that the product can go longer without replacement. That means less resource use overall. As well, products that have minimal maintenance requirements also have smaller environmental impacts.
Therefore, there are many ways to reduce the emissions produced by manufacturing a product. Using renewable energy to power your operations can reduce or even eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions. You can also use materials that have fewer emissions of volatile organic compounds and other compounds during manufacturing or over the products lifetime. Items that require less processing typically require less energy use and have fewer associated emissions.
Another way to reduce emissions and environmental impact is to use energy-efficient technologies. Using energy-efficient manufacturing equipment will reduce the ecological footprint of production while making products and buildings that are energy-efficient reduces energy use over the product’s lifetime.
Water efficiency is another concern related to manufacturing, as water is a critical natural resource. Some manufacturing processes are more water-intensive than others. For products that use water, making them more water-efficient can substantially reduce their environmental impacts over their lifetimes.
Environmental impact is becoming more of a focus in the manufacturing space. Manufacturers can make significant improvements in sustainability by making informed changes to the materials and products they use and produce.
Emily Folk is a freelance writer and blogger from Lancaster, PA. She covers topics in conservation sustainability and renewable energy. See her latest posts by checking out her blog Conservation Folks or follow her on Twitter.