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The Realities of Green Manufacturing
by Adam Cort Posted: February 23, 2009
The subject of environmentally sustainable “green” manufacturing is so broad it can be overwhelming. On the one hand, there’s the scale of the problem. On the other there’s the scale of many of the solutions. It’s all well and good that Ford Motor Co. can install a 10.4-acre grasscovered “living” roof on its storied River Rouge plant in Dearborn, MI, to help keep workers cool in the summer. But, how does a project like that apply to the thousands of smaller companies out with more limited budgets? It’s the same thing with a number of other well publicized efforts that have been making headlines of late—think the $65 million solar roof on the General Motors plant in Zaragoza, Spain, or the 72,000 square feet of solar panels Airbus plans to install on top of its proposed A350 jetliner assembly facility in Toulouse, France. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways of reducing a company’s environmental footprint that don’t carry anywhere near as stiff a bill. In fact, even with the big boys, it’s often the little things that make the real difference. The Subaru automotive assembly plant in Lafayette, IN, for example, hasn’t achieved “zero landfill” status solely through the use of sophisticated technologies like its paint solvent recovery system. On the contrary, in many cases it relies far more heavily on plain old common sense. Why throw away the plastic trays used to transport engines when they can just as easily be sent back to their point of origin for reuse? Why toss out the brass nuts that temporarily secure car wheels during assembly when they can be reused as well? In addition to the literally thousands of tons of steel the plant recycles every year, Subaru and its employees also keeps tabs on the wood used in shipping pallets, and the cans and bottles that pass through the cafeteria. They even collect used rags. In 2007 alone, the company recycled 15 tons of cans and bottles,...