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The industrial world is one of the most important areas of focus for sustainability. Sectors like manufacturing use a considerable amount of energy and resources, giving them massive carbon footprints. If the world is going to become a greener place, industrialization needs to change.
This can seem like a daunting task at first. Making heavy industries sustainable will take some sweeping changes, but, thankfully, it’s not impossible. Here’s a glance at how we can make industrialization more eco-friendly.
One of the most important areas to address is energy. The industrial sector accounts for 35% of end-use energy consumption in the U.S., and most of this energy comes from fossil fuels. Swapping these harmful power sources for renewable energy will result in significant overall improvements.
Because renewables are technology and not a limited fuel source, they’ll only get cheaper over time. As things like solar panels and wind turbines become more affordable, they’ll become a more viable option for manufacturers. Increased funding in renewable energy research could help lower these prices faster.
Energy grids will also have to adapt to enable industry-scale renewable power. Renewables don’t generate electricity on demand, so grids need storage solutions like batteries or hydrogen storage to make up for this discrepancy. Smart transformers, which adjust energy delivery based on need, are also necessary.
Heavy industries can also become more eco-friendly by adopting less wasteful processes. Manufacturers can use artificial intelligence (AI) to forecast demand more accurately, helping them keep inventories to a minimum to minimize waste. 3D printing, which adds material instead of cutting it away, is another way to reduce material waste.
Construction teams and other heavy industry groups should also consider renting equipment. Renting lets companies capitalize on the most modern technology available, which is often more efficient. Renting also extends equipment’s service life and lowers the demand for brand new products, helping reduce emissions from tool manufacturing.
Circular economies are among the most efficient processes possible and should be the end goal for the industrial sector. This involves turning waste at the end of the product lifecycle into raw materials for the start, effectively eliminating waste.
Transportation is another part of industrialization that must adapt to become more sustainable. Trucks carry roughly 70% of all products in the country but generate 1.6 billion tons of CO2 annually. Consequently, reducing these emissions is a big part of heavy industries’ sustainability.
Swapping diesel trucks for electric options is the ultimate goal. Hydrogen and battery-electric long-haul trucks are already starting to come to market, and these will remove direct emissions from transportation.
In the meantime, before electric trucks are more feasible, the industrial sector can try to make their current vehicles as efficient as possible. Regular maintenance will help. Companies can also use AI to find the most efficient routes to complete the most deliveries while burning as little fuel as possible.
One easily overlookable but crucial aspect of all of these changes is cooperation. Industrial processes involve a lot of different parties, so it’ll take a large, cohesive moment to make meaningful changes.
In many cases, more than 70% of companies’ carbon footprints come from third parties like logistics partners or suppliers. If industrial organizations want to become truly sustainable, they need to work with these partners to reduce their emissions. That includes looking for more sustainable third parties in the first place and helping others become more eco-friendly.
It’ll also take cooperation with government agencies to produce helpful, effective legislation to guide better environmental action. Many of the most effective sustainability steps are complicated, but they’re easier to achieve when everyone works together.
Making the industrial sector eco-friendly won’t be easy. However, it’s still an attainable goal. If more companies commit to these four areas, the industrial world can become more sustainable.
These shifts will likely take a long time, so change should begin now. An early start and a spirit of cooperation can help the industrial sector change for the better and protect the environment.
Jane is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co and an environmental writer covering green technology, sustainability, and environmental news.
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