Some industry leaders are now starting to build factories that are friendlier to the environment, cheaper, and, consequently, that create more space for workers.
The manufacturing industry may be facing some challenges but there’s no denying that factories are still serving their purpose—to turn raw materials into actual consumable goods at maximum profit.
But how exactly can factories impact the environment?
Effects of factories to the environment
There’s no doubt that factories have majorly contributed to the damage caused to the environment—air pollution, toxic waste, and water contamination. In fact, they are actually responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse emissions.
Due to the toxic and dangerous materials that it releases to our environment, not only does our planet suffer but our health is affected as well.
While it’s true that factories are not the only contributors to the damage that continues to ruin our planet at a rapid pace but they are one of the major contributors.
Here are some ways in which factories contribute to the man-made damage being done to our planet:
Industrial factories are major contributors to air pollution. The amount of toxic gases that factories release into the air increases health and environmental damages.
In factories, toxic materials and gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, are burned and pumped out into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and methane absorb radiation from the sun and, therefore, affect the temperature of the planet directly.
Global warming leads to rising sea levels, rise in the Earth’s temperature, risk of extinction of different animal species, increase in tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters, and melting of the ice caps.
Factory pollution do not only affect our planet but also our health. More on this later.
Did you know that air pollution causes more deaths than malaria and AIDS/HIV?
But it’s not only that. Here are some other impacts of air pollution:
Lung damage – air pollution doesn’t only suppress the lung’s normal growth rate but it also speeds up the decline of lung function.
Pancreas damage – air pollution has been linked to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.
Heart damage – a lot of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and atherosclerosis have been linked to air pollution.
Brain damage – brain growth in young children and pregnant women is also known to be impacted.
Additionally, US factories emit 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage and industrial waste into water every year, discharge 3 million tons of toxic chemicals, and consume nearly 16 billion gallons of water per day.
But on the bright side, there are already several industry leaders that are reinventing the way the run factories to help the environment and to improve the atmosphere inside for the workers. By integrating updated green building standards, some factories run while also contributing to the planet—with sunnier spaces, healthier air, and total self-sufficiency.
These factories produce their own energy, reuse water, reducing—if not eliminating altogether—waste, and use materials made from sustainable sources. But luckily, this kind of process model doesn’t necessarily cost more than the traditional model and it even saves money on energy, encourages workers to be more productive, and creates better, higher-quality products.
It may sound too good to be true but Industrial Louvers, a 46-year-old company, is actually doing it! Located 30 miles west of Minneapolis, they’re one of the earliest adopters of the sustainable approach.
In October 2017, Industrial Louvers built a new 50,000-square-foot addition to their factory where they make custom louvers, decorative grills, sunshades, and screens for building exteriors.
This expansion will house an entirely new production line that’s free of toxic chemicals that are usually found in the aluminum industry. The stronger roof will hold the photovoltaic solar panels which they are looking to install by around 2022.
The electricity produced by these panels will run the energy-intensive compressors and other electric machinery. The roof will also have the ability to harvest rainwater that will take 60,000 gallons of water to an underground holding tank—which they will then use for the wash system at then end of the production line.
The company’s director of sales and marketing, Lisa Britton, says she expects that the rainwater system supply at least 25 to 100 percent of their needs.
Energy-cost savings may not be as high because they’re also expanding their facilities and modifying their production line. But the company sees it as an investment in the industry and its employees.
They will be able to improve the air quality in the building by removing the toxic chemicals. This already benefits their employees in such a big way but they’ll be more benefits as well—windows and skylights in this new building will bring natural light into the whole facility.
Reinhardt says “happier, healthier employees are better workers,” she adds, “They’re more productive, efficient, and loyal. We feel it pays off there. We want this to be a place where people enjoy coming to work.”
This is all great news. But now, you might be thinking that making factories that are good for the environment is a lot of work—it’s not. There are a lot of ways you can give back to the environment.
Reduce water consumption
Water is an important element to factories. They use it for cleaning, cooling, dilution, and, of course, sanitation. Instead of throwing away wastewater, factories may opt to find ways to recycle their wastewater so that they can use it again internally.
There are water companies and water resources consultants that perform water audits and can offer you a more elaborate advice on how you can recycle.
A smaller way you can reduce water consumption is by utilizing low-flush toilets and water faucets that have sensors. Doesn’t seem like a lot but, you know what they say, every drop counts!
Perform an energy audit
Energy audit refers to the process of analyzing the energy flows in the building that has energy conservation as the goal. This involves a process or a system that aims to reduce the amount of energy input without having a negative impact on the output.
Results of this audit is important as it pinpoints the specific areas where your company can do can make the most improvement. Once you figure out the areas to improve on, you can now start creating a strategy on how to do it.
Aside from enabling you company to help the environment, energy audits can also lead to savings on energy bills! Once you implement energy-saving practices, you’ll start reducing energy costs little by little until you actually see a ROI!
Some examples of small-scale improvements include using energy-efficient light bulbs or lights with motion sensors.
Cost saving is just a bonus, though. The real win is in emitting less carbon footprint.
Keeping and maintaining old equipment not only costs you more money than if you buy an updated one but it can also be a waste of energy by not being able to operate efficiently. You can try repairing it or replacing some parts but if it doesn’t lead to improvement, you might want to consider replacing it altogether and get a newer, more updated one.
Aside from saving energy, this can also lead to more time saved—helping you attain a faster turnaround time and avoid bottlenecks. Plus, it might also improve your output!
Furthermore, factory equipment releases high, if not excessive, amounts of waste heat energy. Companies can consider investing in cogeneration systems to use all these wasted energy to your advantage. Cogeneration systems use the heat energy released by the equipment to moderately heat what you need it to heat such as water or spaces.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, an energy audit can help pinpoint equipment and processes that need the most improvement.
Factories produce a lot product waste as well. Instead of tossing everything out, evaluate them to see if there is anything that you can reuse not just in the manufacturing process but also for the use of the whole facility. You can also try and educate your employees to differentiate waste from recyclable materials.
You may also try reaching out to different communities or educational institutes to see if they’d be interested in waste factory materials. For example, they might be able to recycle and even upcycle scrap metal or wood for some projects.
If these are not feasible for your company, try to segregate your waste properly.
Utilize renewable energy sources
This is a bigger-scale change but it surely reduces your carbon footprint. You can choose from wind, solar, and geothermal—and those are just some of the options.
One of the most common solution that companies use is installing solar panels. Many governments recognize green efforts and offer companies tax credits and subsidies to allow for more ROI and encourage more companies to follow suit.
If a 360-degree transition is not feasible due to resource or financial constraints, factories may consider using a combination of renewable and traditional sources.
As we know, every little effort helps.
Improve company culture
Factory owners that make the effort to improve company culture to make it more eco-friendly are more likely to attract employees that value the same efforts.
Now, if your employees believe in what your company is trying to do, they are more likely to work hard to help you achieve your company’s mission. This means a smoother transition to being greener and happier employees.
What your company can do to improve the internal culture is to focus on educational or training programs that would show your employees how they can contribute to reducing your company’s carbon footprint over time. It would also help if you can show them concrete goals and timelines.
You should already be thinking about being more sustainable or contributing to the environment. But if you’re yet to do so, now is the best time to start. Change can be difficult but, luckily, there’s already a lot of technology and solutions to help ease the transition. All you need to do now is to take action—no matter how big or small.
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