Surveying the Greenscape
Risks and rewards on the green road trip
As Green Manufacturer’s editor, I have the pleasure and privilege of meeting some of the world’s
most innovative manufacturers.
Even though the basis of sustainability is Earth’s continuity, in today’s
business environment, innovating sustainability sometimes requires more
deviation than continuity. Blazing new
trails can reap great rewards, but also
comes with risk and struggle.
“With the persistence of an idiot, we
continued,” said a recent interviewee,
who was describing his company’s work
on an energy-efficient improvement.
Of course, idiocy has nothing to do
with green innovation. Unwavering belief in a concept, a commitment to protecting the environment, and fierce determination are the more likely drivers.
This issue’s cover story follows the
brave undertaking of Multifilm Packaging Corp., which dared to take an alternative route for its cooling and heating
source (“Candy packaging manufacturer
uses geothermal—with a twist,” p. 6).
Multifilm could have gone the well-traveled route—getting a new, energy-efficient chiller. Instead, company owners sought something different that
would be more ecofriendly for its application and could net long-term benefits.
Like any new venture, there were
no GPS directions, no off-the-shelf solutions. An untried path is fraught with
unexpected challenges and costs. Despite excellent design, extensive planning, and precise calculations, wells
had to be redrilled, pipe had to be relocated, and layers of shale and rock
were encountered. Copper prices that
were low at the start escalated by the
two-year project’s end.
For Southwest Windpower, the
world’s largest producer of battery-charging small wind generators for on-site applications, the route was no less
bumpy or detour-free (“SW small wind
manufacturer,” p. 29).
When company co-founder Andy
Kruse began his sustainability innovation road trip, he never expected it
would take him from company headquarters in Flagstaff, Ariz., on historic
Route 66 to Washington, D.C. “Now I
live a large portion of my life in D.C.,
working to influence public policy.” He
was instrumental in gaining investment
tax credits for the entire industry. The
challenges he encountered were not
rocks and shale, but hard-headed legislators and weighty lobbyists.
The rocky challenges don’t end
there. There is still a need for on-site
wind energy systems to reach grid parity—what he sees as the last obstacle
for renewable energy’s road to broad
implementation via technology innovations and manufacturing efficiencies.
What drives the
through those dark alleys
is an unflinching belief in
Clearly, green innovation is a field ripe
with rewards, but rife with risk as well.
What if it fails? That question is espe-
cially keen when you’ve outlaid person-
al investments of time and finances.
It’s only natural to have momentary
misgivings in the dark hours between
initial failures and final success.
... It Had to Work
“... It had to work.” That is the high-octane fuel, the nitrous oxide that drives
innovators to reach their destinations,
isn’t it? After you’ve invested your funds,
your time, and risked so much, you make
sure it works because it has to work.
Successful people dig deep to do
what they have to do.
Commitment to Green
For sustainability innovators, there is an
additional driver—a strong desire and
a commitment to protect the environment while in pursuit of their American
dreams. To avoid sliding down an environmental slippery slope, they have chosen to take the road less traveled.
Kate Bachman, Editor