Sustenance logo

Green manufacturing

Manufacturers are using a number of avenues to make manufacturing more sustainable, including generating less waste during the manufacturing process, using recycled or renewable inputs, making products that can themselves be more easily recycled, and using less toxic chemicals in feedstocks and process chemicals. (See Scott Hibbard, "Six keys to sustainable manufacturing", Plant Engineering, 7/1/09.)

American printers have been widely using renewable soybean-based inks for some time, for example, instead of older printing inks based on non-renewable petroleum compounds. This trend was reinforced by the 1994 federal Vegetable Ink Printing Act, which gave preference to government printers using vegetable oil based inks.

Congress found that a switch to more vegetable oil-based inks would help with air quality and help reduce U.S. dependence on non-renewable energy resources, and would also expand the use of renewable agricultural products. (See Section 2(a) the Vegetable Ink Printing Act.) Besides the overall environmental advantages of such vegetable-based inks, the air quality in the printshop and the health of printers may also be improved. (See, "Switching to Soy Inks".) In the past few years, soy-based products have multiplied, and now include foam insulation, adhesives, cleaners and degreasers, and resins for building materials. (See "New Soy Group Established", Green Chemicals (2/4/09).) >>>More

Recycled chicken feathers could be source of advanced material for hydrogen storage & wind turbine blades

University of Delaware professor Richard Wool and his colleagues are taking a waste product, chicken feathers, and pyrolyzing them to create a hydrogen storage medium for possible eventual use in hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles. ("Of Fuel Cells and Chicken Feathers,"Talk of the Nation, NPR (6/26/09). See also "The Importance of Green Chemistry," (7/1/09), discussing Wool's work.) (Pyrolysis is a method of controlled heating to achieve physical or chemical changes in a substance, without completely burning it.)

The pyrolized feathers have extremely small air tube spaces in them, perfect for storing large quantities of hydrogen in a small space, potentially at a much cheaper cost, and in a more environmentally sustainable manner, than the current alternatives of manufactured carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides. By capturing and lining up hydrogen molecules in the relatively flat planes of the chicken feather fibers, rather than having them vibrating chaotically in all directions as a compressed gas, more hydrogen can be packed into a small space, like a car fuel tank.

Professor Wool is part of a green-engineered materials program at the Univesity of Delaware, where they "are building new green materials for the renewable-energy infrastructure," according to Wool. Wool speculates that the unusually strong and light nature of chicken feather fibers may also make it possible to make wind turbine blades in the future out of composites made from processed chicken feathers and soybean extracts. Wool is investigating soy-oil-based composites in his "Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources" (ACRES) project. He points out that we are already making "printed circuit boards for the electronic-materials industry out of chicken feathers and soybeans . . . ." ("Of Fuel Cells and Chicken Feathers")>>>More

Organizational resources, national

Apollo Alliance Under the slogan "Clean Energy - Good Jobs," the Apollo Alliance advocates for the restoration of American manufacturing through investment in alternative energy manufacturing capability. The Alliance favors a crash effort, similar to the Apollo moon program, to achieve energy independence based on renewable energy sources. The website is a good source of case studies of green industry around the country, particularly in the energy sector, and they have important updates on legislation that could promote clean energy and clean energy manufacturing. Their Green Manufacturing Action Plan, available at GreenMAP, is also a similarly useful source of accounts of clean energy manufacturing.

US EPA Green Suppliers Network This federally supported project offers technical assistance, information and success stories about manufacturers reducing energy use, greenhouse gases, and waste.

Reports, books, articles

The Green Collar Economy (2008), by Van Jones. Community activist, now Obama advisor, Jones proposes a "Green Growth Alliance" to press for a "Green New Deal." He argues that retooling the American economy for energy efficiency, alternative energy, and other "green economy" measures will address two principal crises facing the country: radical social and economic inequality and radical environmental destruction, particularly climate change. Jones concludes that five main partners should make up this Green Growth Alliance: labor, social justice activists, environmentalists, students and faith organizations. He also asserts that forward-thinking business leaders will be a key driver of the needed change.

Apollo's Fire -- Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, by Jay Inslee. This 2008 book by Congressman Congressman Inslee gives an overview of alternative energy strategies for the U.S., from increasing wind and solar power to radically improved energy efficiency. Inslee is one of the principal sponsors for the New Apollo Energy Act, H.R. 2809, a legislative version of the Appollo Alliance's proposal for dramatically expanded investment in alternative energy in the U.S.

Page first published: 9/6/09