Although the air quality throughout the United States has seen consistent improvements since 1980, we still have a long way to go in the fight against global warming. Couple this with some of the unhealthy and hazardous conditions of third-world countries and foreign entities around the world, and it's easy to see why some would call recent sustainability activities a moot effort. However, some industries, both in the U.S. and across the globe, are making significant strides in the right direction.
Manufacturers from all sectors are beginning to realize the environmental and financial benefits of operational sustainability. A concept that was once unheard of in the manufacturing industry, accommodations for sustainability are now featured in nearly every business plan or forecast.
A number of strategies are being employed to drive sustainability in this area. Many companies are now embracing lean manufacturing. When coupled with the most popular sustainable business practices of today, manufacturers can experience a significant reduction in waste, lower operational costs, and an improved public perception.
Manufacturing processes of early electronics were incredibly harsh on our environment. Recognizing the need for cleaner operations, a number of companies stepped up to serve as role models in the industry. Nokia, Whirlpool, Texas Instruments and Dow Corning were amongst some of the earliest adopters of business sustainability in their specific niches.
To drive sustainability even further, HP hosts a dedicated e-waste recycling program. By diverting some of the responsibility away from individual manufacturers and giving consumers the chance to make a difference by recycling their old and outdated electronics, the entire industry serves as an excellent role model of collaboration.
Our nation's agriculture industry is driving the frontlines in sustainability and eco-friendly operations. Nearly half of the all the corn grown in the U.S. is currently used to fuel next-gen automobiles that utilize alternative fuel systems. Considering this is the country's largest crop, that's quite a bit of ethanol.
Crops that are grown for human consumption benefit enormously when shipped using flexible intermediate bulk containers, or FIBCs. With load ratings that range from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, and with bulk bags that are designed with food safety and shipping in mind, this type of alternative packaging is seeing an increasing use in the U.S.
The automotive industry has long been a target of environmental activists and preservationists. Now that their turbulent history is behind them, many automobile manufacturers are taking steps toward sustainability.
Ford has recently introduced a proprietary Product Sustainability Index, or PSI, which provides a comprehensive set of standards that are meant to interject sustainability into every phase of development and manufacturing. The program is the first of its kind and shows great potential for the future of the industry.
Now that residential and commercial construction has resumed following the latest U.S. recession, builders are starting to see the value in green and sustainable construction. Roads are being planned to take advantage of direct driving routes, homes are being built in close proximity to shopping centers and businesses are using electricity more efficiently than ever before.
Not only does this industry have the potential to make a significant impact on the overall air quality of the Earth, but construction companies are in a unique position that allows them to design new buildings with long-term sustainability in mind.
A Highly Collaborative Effort
Historically, most of the industries mentioned here have a reputation of damaging the environment more than they help it. Given the recent push for sustainability across the world, most manufacturers, farmers, and construction workers are already taking steps to minimize their own impact. It's a collective effort like this that will have the biggest effect on global warming, so this is a great place to start.