Green Innovations in Manufacturing

A burgeoning field in all walks of life is the green, or sustainability, movement. It has made its presence known in film, politics, mass consumption and manufacturing. The green manufacturing movement has inspired a lot of companies to turn towards more sustainable and “eco-friendly” methods of production, incorporating reusability and recycling into their business plans and developing new products that can be reused, recycled or those that will have less of an impact on the environment. While these innovations are good for the earth, they can also be useful PR tools for a company’s brand image. While a lot of green initiative implementation can be more costly than their standard counterparts, often long term cost-saving is the benefit of the initial up front costs.

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Use of standard air-source heat and coolage pumps is widespread, but use of geothermal heating and cooling systems is growing; professionals estimate that 50,000 new units are installed in the United States every year.

Geothermal temperature control involves the use of subterranean temperatures to regulate air temperature. Basically, temperature is relatively standard just a few feet below the earth’s surface, normally warmer than outside air in cold periods and cooler than outside air in hot ones. A geothermal temperature pump warms or cools air and sends it through a closed system in a building, offering temperature control. Geothermal systems can be combined with air-source pumps for a dual-source unit. These units are slightly cheaper to install than strict geothermal systems, but are less efficient. This choice depends on the location of the facility and the needs of the company. Geothermal systems generally have higher efficiency rates than air-source systems.

Unfortunately, geothermal systems are more expensive to install than air-source systems. However, they are generally more inexpensive to maintain and use, and they have life expectancies of 50+ years overall, with certain internal components estimated at 25 years. It would take a company 5-10 years to recoup the difference if they invest in a geothermal system than if they had invested in an air-source temperature control system.

Green Energy Production and Energy Saving Techniques

Another energy concern for companies is production. Many manufacturers are turning to on-site solar energy production to power their factories, buttressed by wind, hydro and landfill gas electricity. This is an effort to turn away from fossil fuels, which produce great amounts of energy, but are seen by many as great pollutants and aren’t renewable resources.

Running a factory on alternative energy can involve high investment in the initial stages. Switching to wind or hydro-generated electricity involves installing different equipment which can be costly, but long term investments can pay off.

Green Branding

One of the more intangible differences between classic and green, eco-friendly innovations is the public relations aspect. Companies can foster greater relationships with their local communities by engaging in very small scale community investment. And for customers, buying from an eco-conscious company can be paramount. And going “green” can be as simple a task as investing in carbon emission offsets. According to many experts, the unquantifiable public relations boost “going green” can afford a company is seen as leverage in today’s conscious and concerned economy and environment.

The Future

Any newsstand will feature literally dozens of articles about the green revolution, which speaks to the demand for readers about these kinds of initiatives. Regardless of global warming’s currency in popular discourse, there is certainly a growing population who are eager and willing to engage in more ecological conscious production and consumption behavior, paving a way for more green innovations.

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