Green Manufacturing and Sustainable Development

Each year, leaders from 19 countries and the European Union participate in G20 meetings to discuss challenging issues related to the global economy. Among the variety of topics that are being discussed every year, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and green manufacturing are on top of the agenda. The World’s leaders take on new commitments to support green manufacturing and coordinate their efforts to tackle climate change. This year too, they promised to expedite the transition towards green and more inclusive economies, because the member states account for more than 90 percent of the gross world product. But what is green manufacturing and why do countries make heavy commitments to fulfill it. 

What is green manufacturing?

Green manufacturing refers to the environmentally friendly practices in the production plants. These practices lead to the manufacturing of green products and a reduction in the usage of natural resources and carbon emissions in the production processes. In other words, in green manufacturing, production plants use the energy generated from natural resources including wind, sunlight, and water to produce the products with the lowest possible environmental impacts. Green manufacturing is one of the pillars of sustainable development which is meeting the needs of the current generation without endangering future generations’ needs.

Green manufacturing has considerable advantages for businesses (such as enjoying government tax incentives and creating a better brand image) and it helps the world leaders and decision-makers to:

  • Stop or reverse global warming which will have catastrophic effects on human life if the current situation persists.

  • Protect the environment and natural resources

  • Reduce air and water pollution 

  • Create new business opportunities such as solar panel production plants

  • Feed more people on a global scale

Green manufacturing in practice

According to a 2017 report by the World Resources Institute, Manufacturing and Construction accounts for more than 12 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. China, the USA, and the EU have the highest share of carbon emissions and play a central role in environmental pollution. But how we can reduce the carbon emission in manufacturing which is the third most significant source of pollution?

  • Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources: fossil fuels are one of the main sources of energy for manufacturers, but they are non-renewable and can have disastrous impacts on the environment. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources like wind, water, and solar panels would help countries to both erase their carbon footprint in the environment and reduce the expenses and costs relating to the energy consumption of households and industries. 

  • Increasing energy efficiency: In addition to replacing fossil fuels with renewable energies, decision-makers within the manufacturing industry are advised to provide feasible strategies for decreasing energy consumptions by their production plants. The strategies include but are not limited to using smart lighting systems instead of the traditional ones, implementing maintenance management processes (which helps the manufacturers to prevent any potential interruptions in their operations), reviewing the logistics and supply chain digitizing, using natural airflows, shading windows and walls, and optimizing the appliances and equipment.

  • Reducing water usage: Everyday manufacturers use a huge amount of water in the production plants for the purpose of cleaning and cooling their systems. Establishing their production plants in naturally cold places (as an example Microsoft has moved its data centers to northern Europe for cooling purposes), following best practices in the industry, and creating innovative technologies with embedded cooling capabilities, can help manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Lowering yield losses: yield loss in the production plants originates from different sources including equipment breakage, idle machinery, production defects, any reduction in the speed of the machinery, and using machinery not operating at full capacity. 

  • Recycling and reducing the packaging: minimizing the waste and recycling are among the main strategies to reduce carbon emissions. It is a long time that companies like H&M and Scania have started using recycled materials in their products and moving towards a sustainable society is among the values pursued by many brands. Besides, using biodegradable material in the products’ packaging became a popular trend recently.  

What are renewable sources of Energy?

As stated earlier, manufacturers are advised to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy to decrease their carbon emissions and it is a proven solution in realizing green manufacturing. Renewable energy is the energy that is obtained from resources that are replenished naturally. Tides, sunlight, rain, wind, and geothermal are the main resources of renewable energy. Following we will elaborate more on the mentioned resources:

  • Sunlight: photovoltaic cells that get sunlight and transform it into electricity are among the common sources of renewable energies, though they need to become more affordable for households and production plants and are not practical in regions with a typical cloudy sky. 

  • Water: hydropower or the energy that comes from water (from sources including rivers, streams, rainfalls, tides, and dams) and is also known as hydroelectric power is another naturally replenished source of energy. Though the recent droughts due to global warming have caused problems for the facilities that use this source of energy. 

  • Wind: wind energy is commonly captured by turbines that are implemented in high altitudes. Currently, Jiuquan city in the northwesternmost part of Gansu province in China has the biggest wind power farm in the world with a capacity of 20GW.

  • Geothermal heat: The thermal energy which is stored under the earth’s crust is a huge source of energy. This is the same energy that has been used in the natural hot water springs. The steam which is underneath the earth can be captured by steam turbines and turned into electricity, though accessing it requires drilling into the earth which by itself will damage the environment.   

  • Biomass: Biomass is the organic material that comes from plants and animals and is used as fuel. Materials including wood and animal waste can be directly burned to produce energy or turned into liquids and gaseous fuels. These materials produce greenhouse emissions, though their carbon footprints are much lower than fossil fuels. 

  • Biofuels: Biofuels are also obtained from organic materials though you cannot burn them directly and have to convert them into ethanol. It is estimated that by 2050, over 25 percent of the required fuel in the transportation sector will be supplied by biofuels. 

  • Nuclear power: this is the energy that comes from nuclear reactions including fission, fusion, and decay. Uranium and plutonium are two major chemical elements in nature that are used for these reactions and two-thirds of the required uranium in the world are mined in countries including Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia. Nuclear power is a reliable source of energy with a low operation cost though it can lead to catastrophic happenings including which we can refer to the Chernobyl accident in 1986 in the Soviet Union or the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 that happened in Japan due to the Tohoku tsunami.  

Article by: Maryam Mousavi

 

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