Sustainable Manufacturing is the Future. It has to be.
As the general concern for our environment grows, it becomes clear that we must implement tangible practices that decrease our carbon footprint and conserve natural resources. Putting an end to the throwaway cycle is where it all starts. We must stop producing, using, and disposing of products in a linear way, without considering their impact on the environment. This “use and dispose” mentality, where products are designed to be used once or for a short period of time before being discarded leads to a continuous stream of waste. Recent statistics show that Canadians produce over 750 kilograms of waste per person every year, and this number only accounts for waste formally processed through landfills and recycling facilities.
How does sustainable manufacturing affect this cycle?
Though we have a long way to go, we have seen a shift in the way people have begun to take a products life cycle into consideration. The fashion and furniture industries have seen shifts towards consignment and thrift shopping, making used and vintage finds cool in the minds of consumers. The manufacturing industry is responsible for the supply and production of consumer goods across the globe, and with that comes a social responsibility to ensure the impact it has on our environment and communities is focused on the future.
What is Sustainability in Manufacturing?
Sustainable manufacturing is essential in our quest to take better care of our planet, and it has to be taken seriously. It considers the entire lifecycle of a product with the intention of minimizing waste, utilizing recycled materials, while having the lowest impact on natural resources possible. Many governments now have regulations in place to encourage sustainable manufacturing processes, but we need to be motivated by a greater cause than adhering to guidelines, avoiding penalties and upholding a desired reputation.
What is a Sustainable Manufacturing Process?
Implementation of sustainable manufacturing takes us in the opposite direction we have been headed. It begins with sourcing materials that are environmentally friendly, meaning; they have renewable, recyclable and non-toxic qualities. Re-manufacturing products and materials that already exist not only reduces the amount of waste we dispose of, it significantly impacts the amount of hazardous pollutants and toxic chemicals emitted through landfills. These toxic chemicals and emissions are then leached into our water supply, soil, air and ecosystems posing a risk to our health and the health of the planet.
Sustainable manufacturing is intended to put an end to the throwaway cycle for good.
Some examples of Sustainable Manufacturing Processes
reuse of post-consumer recyclables
reducing energy consumption through efficient use of resources e.g. solar and wind energy
use of biodegradable materials
manufacturing minimally packaged products
manufacturing products that are designed for durability and a long life cycle
implementing a closed-loop recycling system; materials that can be reused endlessly instead of being discarded
ensuring safe, healthy and fair working conditions
sourcing materials ethically
implementing fair labour practices
- pollution prevention and emissions control
We are all responsible
Although we may not all have first hand involvement in the manufacturing industry, as consumers and members of society we have a choice. We must make a conscious effort to support companies and products that are working to break the ‘throwaway’ cycle.
What can you do?
The next time you go to purchase a product, consider it’s lifecycle. What are you supporting in the purchase of that product? Look for companies that are transparent about their supply chains, and show certifications like Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance. Choose to purchase products that are made with biodegradable and recycled materials.
When making renovations and upgrades to your home, consider the amount of waste generated in discarded materials. Make a conscious choice to use products and companies that re-manufacture previously recycled materials (post-consumer recyclables), and always ensure that discarded items are properly recycled, never adding to our landfills.
Choose products designed for durability, that minimize the need for frequent repairs, maintenance and replacement.
By voicing our opinions and making these conscious decisions to support sustainable manufacturing, we can help drive demand, and encourage companies to adopt more sustainable practices in the industry.