Environmental Impacts of Factories and How They Can Improve
Factories negatively impact the environment through air pollutant emissions, toxic waste disposal and water contamination. Besides, they’re also the major offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas contributions. Factories alone are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the emissions to blame for global climate change.
Though the statistics are bleak, technological advancements offer facilities a variety of options to de-carbonize the manufacturing process.
Reduce water consumption
Factories use water during the manufacturing process for many reasons, including cleaning, cooling, dilution and sanitation. Instead of releasing wastewater to sewers and storm sewers, factories can investigate ways of recycling water inside their plants. Water companies and water resources consultants can perform water audits to offer more detailed advice.
On a smaller scale, low-flush toilets and water faucets with sensors can reduce the amount of potable water wasted in day-to-day operations.
Perform an energy audit
Energy audits are the process of evaluating which equipment or procedures are using the highest levels of energy. This information is valuable, as it pinpoints the specific areas that can offer the most improvement. Once a factory locates the worst offenders, they have a starting point for making reductions in their energy consumption.
Energy audits can also lead to yearly savings on energy bills. The cost savings generated by energy-saving practices usually offset the investments companies make in implementing them. Small-scale changes can include using more efficient light bulbs, changing to lights with sensors and updating or adding insulation. Overall, less energy usage can translate to a smaller carbon footprint.
Replace outdated equipment
Aging equipment can waste energy by operating inefficiently. If repairs or part replacements don’t lead to improvements, factories can replace outdated equipment with newer, more energy- and time-efficient models. Not only will newer models reduce energy consumption, but time savings may also decrease product turnaround times or eliminate bottlenecks. An energy audit will pinpoint the equipment and processes in need of the most improvement.
Equipment releases a significant amount of waste heat energy. To take advantage of this wasted heat, factories can invest in cogeneration systems, which use the thermal energy produced by equipment to moderately heat water or heat spaces.
Instead of tossing scrap metal and waste material from products, evaluate them to see if and how your factory can reuse them in the manufacturing process. If this isn’t feasible, try to recycle all waste products appropriately. Educate employees to ensure they know the difference between waste and recyclable materials.
Get creative and reach out to local universities and businesses to see if they would be interested in the waste factory materials. Students might be interested in scrap metal or wood for art projects or developing prototypes, while local companies may be able to use sawdust or waste plastic for other purposes.
Switch to renewable energy sources
Renewable energy sources are another way factories can reduce their carbon footprint. Wind, solar and geothermal are just several of the available options. Consider installing solar panels or coordinating with new wind farm construction. Many governments offer tax credits and subsidies to offset the cost of renewable energy.
If a full transition is too expensive or not feasible due to limited renewable energy resources, factories can use a combination of both renewable and traditional sources to help reduce their carbon footprint. If possible, use renewables as a primary energy source and switch to carbon-based sources when renewable source supply decreases.
Change company culture
Manufacturers that focus on changing company culture to make eco-friendly practices a priority will attract employees with a similar value system. Employees who are personally invested in the company’s mission will work hard to ensure all conservation efforts and policies are being implemented correctly. This will help factories achieve their mission of reducing environmental impacts more quickly.
To change company culture, management can focus on educational programs for employees which show the company’s reduction in pollution over time, goals to continue to reduce pollution and carbon emissions and the specific roles they anticipate employees will play in meeting these goals.
Change can be difficult, but fortunately, the tools needed to do so are readily available for those involved in manufacturing process. With some effort, it’s possible for companies to reduce their carbon footprint and operate in an eco-friendly manner.
This is a guest post written by Kate Harveston.
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her writing focuses on politics and the environment, with a particular emphasis on social change. You can follow her writing by visiting her blog, So Well, So Woman.