Green manufacturing is a term used to describe a business practice that is focused on having as little impact on the world’s natural environment as possible. In society, much attention is placed on finding renewable sources of energy and on reducing waste. A manufacturing company that is green is a company that pays attention to the impact it is having on the environment.
When it comes to green manufacturing, it is easy to break it down into input and output. What products are brought into the company and from what sources? What products are brought out of the company, including both finished goods and by-products, or waste?
In green manufacturing, the first step is to look at the waste that is generated by both the company and the employees. Recycling containers should be placed wherever it is convenient. The use of paper should be minimized as much as possible. Waste should be recycled when possible, and taken to the proper facilities when it needs to be discarded.
When customers pay higher prices for green manufacturing, they expect that more effort has gone into making the product environmentally-friendly. This includes the parts that go into the manufacturing process as well as the energy used for the manufacturing process. For example, a company may have virtually no waste at its facility, but it might be bringing in and using products for the assembly process that come from companies that are decidedly environmentally-unfriendly. Or a company might generate little waste but leave a huge carbon footprint by using a large amount of natural resources to power their operations.
A carbon footprint is becoming a larger part of today’s vocabulary, and it has a great impact on green manufacturing. The carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases, or carbon dioxide, emitted from a particular person or, in this case, a company. A true and complete carbon footprint would even include emissions from the companies that provide products to the manufacturing facility.
Consumers will pay higher prices for environmentally-friendly, or eco-friendly, products. There is no universal standard for the term, however, so companies may use it as they wish. This leads to some confusion amongst consumers since a company can attest to its own green manufacturing status based on its own standards.
The so-called green movement began in the 1970s when the first Earth Day was held, and gathered steam through the 1980s with the first international Earth Day being held in 1990. In recent years, inflated gas prices have brought attention back to the sources of power in the world and society’s impact on its environment.