Consumers have numerous ways to practice sustainable lifestyles. They can participate in community recycling programs, grow food in backyard gardens and shop at thrift stores rather than buying new clothes to refresh their wardrobes. However, there’s also been a push in the business world to increase the sustainability of industrial facilities.
Those aims tie into consumer trends too. Many would prefer to do business with companies that are operating more sustainably than their competitors. Fortunately, managers of industrial facilities have many ways to pursue sustainability.
Smart Sensors Can Reduce Resource Use
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to connected devices ranging from security cameras to smartwatches. But a specialty sector of the IoT called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) relates to internet-enabled equipment used in places like factories.
IIoT sensors serve many purposes, and not all relate to sustainability. For example, some of them offer predictive maintenance assistance and warn when a machine needs servicing before it breaks down. But smart sensors can also improve energy-efficiency by indicating which pieces of equipment use the most energy and why. Some can also break the metrics down even further, such as to show which processes or products require the most output. When people in authority have that kind of visibility, it’s easier for them to decide how to make positive changes.
Other kinds of sensors avoid waste. Most people have seen rooms equipped with occupancy detectors so that the lights automatically turn off when people leave. Many bathroom sinks work the same way by turning on when someone places their hands underneath but shutting off immediately afterward.
The decision-makers at industrial facilities should ideally see where resource excess happens most. Then, they can look for sensors to address the matter.
Strategically Choosing Factory Sites to Reduce Unnecessary Travel May Help
Sometimes, the quest to bring more sustainability into an industrial facility starts before the building process does. When company representatives start thinking about which sustainable facility characteristics they want, many begin by looking for the site of a future building while keeping eco-friendliness in mind.
For example, when an industrial facility is close to major airports, roads and ports, goods don’t need to travel as far whether moving to or from the new site. Prioritizing a location, then, could cut down on the transit-related emissions associated with an industrial plant.
The people involved with site selection may also think about the needs of future employees by shortlisting properties that are closest to public transportation links. Or, they may be especially interested in the places that give workers opportunities to walk, bike or carpool to get to work.
Reusable Solutions Let Companies Have Ongoing Positive Impacts
Industrial facilities must keep things like safety gear, packing supplies and bulk materials well-organized for easy retrieval. Clutter causes frustration, and the obstacles it creates could introduce fire hazards or make people more likely to trip and fall.
A sustainable and practical way to make an industrial building tidier is to invest in reusable storage solutions. For example, plastic industrial totes are easy to clean for repeated uses, and reusable bags easily hold loose items.
A company called LimeLoop takes a different approach to reusability by letting companies rent sustainable mailing envelopes. The products, made from former billboard vinyl, can tolerate up to 2,000 uses, and they have a zipper at one end instead of an adhesive flap.
There are also smaller things that a company can do to promote its commitment to reusing items when possible. Perhaps executives could give all workers non-disposable coffee cups and water bottles as gifts at the next holiday party to start.
Plants Could Mitigate Air Pollution More Effectively Than Tech-Based Solutions
Industrial companies often use interventions like smokestack-scrubbing systems to clean the air around a factory. These systems can help with air pollution problems, but a study from Ohio State University determined that restoring natural vegetation to the area could be as or even more effective than technological solutions. More specifically, plants and trees could reduce air pollution around factories by an average of 27%. Plus, in three-quarters of the counties examined, the researchers concluded that such a method for reducing pollution was often cheaper than turning to technology.
Another perk for industrial brands to keep in mind is that planting trees around a factory could become an activity that builds morale and collaboration among team members. For example, managers could invite workers to give up a few hours on a Saturday to come together and plant the trees, then make a rotating schedule for people to commit to ongoing care.
Various Paths to Improved Sustainability
There is no single best way for a company to become more sustainable, but using these ideas for inspiration and taking them to meet specific needs will certainly help.