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How Can Manufacturers Be More Eco-Friendly?

Updated on June 11, 2013

In this day and age, the terms "green" and "eco-friendly" get tossed around a lot more than they did, say, fifteen years ago. This is great, because now companies are coming up with new methods of manufacturing that are better for the environment. There are several ways that businesses in the manufacturing industry can "green-up" their processes, and I recently took the time to learn about some of them, while I was browsing for ways to lower my electric bill this summer—that air conditioner's a killer on my wallet!

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Energy Audits

The first step in making a manufacturing plant more eco-friendly is to conduct an energy audit. This will show areas that could benefit from changes. It can include things like replacing traditional light bulbs with CFL ones, using programmable thermostats, and more. Finding out where energy is expended is the first step in changing how much energy a business uses on a day-to-day basis. Changes don't have to happen all at once, either, which helps if a company is on a tight budget. Many states have tax incentives and tax breaks to businesses that make the switch to greener energy use. You should also make sure that windows are sealed tightly and that weather stripping is in place so that your heaters and air conditioners don't have to make up for air leaks.

Reduce Waste

Recycling scrap products, cardboard boxes, and used paper is one easy way to reduce your business' waste. Some manufacturers have more scrap than other, but many times, these scraps can be turned into something else to avoid simply being thrown out. Companies that work with materials like vinyl or PVC sheeting, or manufacture products that are finished using radio frequency welding know that every inch of material counts when making a product. Make sure you're getting the most out of what you put in. Recycling programs for large businesses are usually slightly different from what a typical homeowner does, but the end result is the same—less overall waste, and more products being reused. The same goes for water—companies should aim to use as little water as possible. The water company providing service to a business can perform an audit (similar to an energy audit) to find out where changes can be made in order to make a factory or company more water-efficient.

Consider Alternative Energy

These days, some businesses are choosing to use alternative energy, like solar or wind energy. Making a partial or full switch to alternative energy sources makes a huge difference on how eco-friendly your business is, but it's not always in the budget. This can be something your company works up to and does all at once, or it can take place in increments. Whatever your business chooses to do, using alternative energy sources can make a huge difference both speaking to eco-friendliness as well as toward your energy bills. This could also involve installing more windows if possible, since sunlight will always be cheaper than electric lights.

Alter Manufacturing Processes

Some companies can even look to altering their manufacturing processes and the products they use. For example, if their processes include using harsh chemicals or involve things that create fumes, higher-ups can research alternative ways to make their products to see if there are ways that the job can get done without adding pollution to the atmosphere. If a company deals with creating products that need to be stitched together and don't want to use non-renewable sources to do so, they can look into hot air welding, which means heat sealing materials together using heat and pressure—no chemicals, fumes, or product used.

Allow for Telecommuting

Some businesses have people on staff who can complete their work either in the office or elsewhere. For those whose jobs are adaptable, telecommuting can be allowed to reduce energy used at the office, as well as reduce commuting emissions. This may not be possible for every company, however, but it's an option.

Implement Paperless Payroll

Depending on the size of a company, the amount of paper used to print payroll checks can be significant. Putting the information online still allows employees to access the information and print pay stubs if they need to, and since these options are password protected, their information is secure. A company can save a lot of paper by switching to paperless payroll checks and invoices.

Switch to Hybrid Vehicles

Many companies use vehicles either for delivery or transporting things from place to place. Switching to hybrid vehicles may seem like a frivolous idea when it comes to enhancing the green-ness of a business, but it can save money on gas as well as lower the emissions put out into the air. Anyway you can lower the amount of pollution your business creates, the better.

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