Go Green, Save GreenWith all the hype about hybrids these days, I thought I would come up with a hybrid of my own. “Sustainanomics” is a cross between sustainability and economics. In today’s business climate, this “hybrid” feels like a good fit.
With the recession getting deeper, the economy grabs most of the headlines these days, where just six months ago, it seemed like the news was all about sustainability and carbon footprints. However, two facts are undoubtedly certain. First, the troubled economy will not be fixed anytime soon and second, sustainability will never go away. The world just won’t let that happen.
So how do we use one to help the other?
Sustainability has come to mean different things to different people. To me, this is a very misunderstood and sometimes abused term. Some people think it only relates to money, others say it’s just about labor and believe its has a lot to do with the environment.
In reality, all three play a role. One definition of sustainability describes it as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Another notes, that “sustainability is an attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments.”
The truth is that sustainability refers to taking care of things today so they are here for others tomorrow.
But let’s narrow our focus on “sustainanomics” to resources and conservation, including gas, electric, water, land and air. Because the second half of the word is grabbed from economics, money becomes central to any conversation. By combining sustainability with economics, you create a viscous circle where once force, such as economics, is trying to trump the other, or sustainability.
Many times you need to spend money to improve your operations so they are more sustainable in the use of natural resources. You might think about retrofitting all of your lighting systems with new energy-efficient bulbs and fixtures. You may consider installing a heat exchanger to recover heat from ovens, compressors or boiler stacks. However, in today’s economy, the money to make major changes might not exist.
The only other option is to make small changes that don’t require major capital, but create some savings. Then, the goal involves committing those saving to projects that better our conservation efforts, thus allowing us to “Get Green” and “Save Green.”
The harsh reality is that companies have a hard time delegating those savings to sustainability projects when they can use that money for other business purposes. Making progress in the area of sustainability can be difficult in today’s economic climate. If we don’t reinvest our green savings into green projects, how do we get greener, which can possibly save us even more money?
It all boils down to one big question. How do we actually make something happen in our bakeries that will result in creating the best outcomes for future generations who work in our industry and in society as a whole? To do this, we have to better control our use of natural gas, electricity and water, and reduce the generation of waste. Whether you work in a bakery, at an equipment manufacturer or in an office, your company has taken some action to save electricity and water. Additionally, you probably do some level of recycling. Everybody knows where to find the low-hanging fruit such as turning the lights out when you leave, fix leaky faucets and reuse printer paper for notes.
In the bakery, the quickest ways to Go Green and Be Greener involve focusing on the production line. In many cases, reducing production waste and enhancing operational efficiency on a daily basis can provide more long-term savings than by many well-intended capital projects. Every gram of product you put in the package has an element of gas, electricity and water that’s priced in by your company and, eventually, paid for by the customer.
If you toss away that gram of product as waste, you also are throwing away those natural resources along with all of the other overhead costs that it took to make it in the first place. To add insult to injury, in many cases, you also are paying to waste it -- literally. As a result, everybody on the production floor needs to understand that there is a direct correlation between waste reduction and sustainability.
Last month, I saw a simple but realistic practice of going green and saving money. This bakery would shut down lighting systems as the line finished operating for the day or for the week. The facility used minimal lighting for sanitation activities and portable lighting for detailed cleaning. Rather than burn the house lights all day when one person was working in the area, they used point-of-use lighting to cut down on the energy bill. That’s one way how several small practices can add up to the big savings.
Finally, remember the old adage that “measurements drive improvement.” If you compare how the amount of resources you use correlates to your production output on a monthly basis, you can validate how your sustainability efforts are driving down those ratios in a visible way. Use scorecards to measure what you are using and what you are producing to pinpoint how efficient your lines are performing.
In the end, instead of waiting around for the big bag of money to drop in your lap for those much-desired sustainability projects, you can go out and take care of those little things to help your company “Go Green” and “Save Green” using “Sustainanomics.”