Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said,“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
In no realm has that sentiment been truer than in the environmental circle.
Many stories and articles on the pages of this magazine have told you about the cost savings that manufacturers have realized from implementing lighting retrofits; retrofitting their machinery with energy-efficient motors, variable-frequency drives, and efficient pumping systems; and replacing drafty dock doors with tightly sealed ones.
Some ingenious manufacturers have figured out how to process their own raw materials out of scrap that nets them a cost advantage and puts them at a pricing advantage. Some are selling their production waste for profit, or converting their waste into an energy source.
Although it’s true that most of the time environmental initiatives save or even make money, sometimes they cost.
Even When It Costs
Playworld Systems CEO Matt Miller made the decision to implement a costly conversion of the coating process for his playground equipment without any expectation of a timely ROI at all. His decision was prompted by the purist of motives—a belief that doing so was the right thing to do. (Read “Making play PVC-free,” p.18).
Many manufacturers are still venting toxic fumes generated by their processes via roof vents or dock doors into the atmosphere. They will continue to do so, pushing the boundaries of what is legal and fighting phantom regulation, until the EPA bans it, as it has for welding fumes and abrasive grinding operations. (See “Energy-efficient, EPA-compliant air pollution control,” p. 26). Other manufacturers have proactively implemented fume extraction and emissions control equipment to protect not only their workers, but also the environment.
The beauty industry hasn’t exactly been clamoring for hair care manufacturers to use renewable energy to power their plants, and it’s uncertain whether salon customers will show a preference for “wind-blown” hair care products.
Yet, Zotos Intl. Sustainability Manager and CEO Anthony Perdigao has created the first wave of environmental consciousness among his industry of hair care and beauty products (see “Hair products manufacturer is wind-blown,” p. 36.”) What the company’s two wind turbines do not provide in electricity, Zotos purchases in the form of green energy—electricity generated by renewables from utility-scale wind farms and solar fields—at a premium price.
Greg Bachman, author of “Water reuse, recycling, conservation in manufacturing,” (p. 30), uses his passion for clean water to help people in remote locations around the world gain access to clean, sustainable drinking water as a volunteer for Lifewater International, a development nonprofit agency. Although the organization arranges the logistics and covers the project costs such as for hand pumps, drilling rigs, and building materials, volunteers like him are responsible for paying for their airfare, food, lodging, immunizations, and personal items, which typically total about $2,500 per trip. Bachman makes the trips on his own “vacation” time—and his own dime.
Especially When It Counts
Together, this small group of thoughtful committed, citizens and environmental leaders have begun to turn the tide of apathetic environmental abuse and are changing the world.
Other children’s toy and game companies have taken notice of Playworld Systems’ coating conversion and have begun to make conversions of their own. Hasbro, maker of Transformers®, My Little Pony®, and Mr. Potato Head®, announced this year that it is converting its packaging to eliminate PVC.
The incidence of water usage in industry has actually declined, and a groundswell of automakers, food and chemical processors, and lighting manufacturers have set goals to modify their manufacturing methods to reduce their water consumption.
Bachman and the volunteers he has worked with have affected hundreds of people. The organization he volunteers for has affected hundreds of thousands.
It is the pure environmentalist who does the green thing even when it costs.
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