Manufacturing methods can help determine whether a product is sustainable. Some considerations are:
- How much water is required for production and does it recycle back into the process?
- How much fossil fuel energy is required for production?
- Does manufacture include a closed loop process?
- Are chemicals used? What type?
- Are workers treated well and paid fair wages?
For example, Bridge-Gate uses a chemical free, zero pollution process which requires very little water and employs a completely self-contained washing system. Once their pulping process is complete they pump the material directly into production of their finished goods. By eliminating the pulp drying process, less energy and less water is used.
Their factory does not employ children, and pays its workers fair living wages according to living standards in China, and provides housing, regular meals and regular hours for its workers.
VerTerra™ production begins with collecting fallen leaves, which are then high-pressure sprayed with water, steamed and UV sterilized. Over 80% of the water used in production is recaptured and reused. And the company has created hundreds of fair-wage jobs for local craftspeople who work in conditions compliant with international standards.
Where companies locate their production facilities also factors into sustainability.
- Is the product domestically produced?
- How far apart are resources and manufacturing facilities?
- How much fossil fuel is required to transport raw materials to factory, and finished goods to distribution points?
- How efficient are the packing and shipping processes?
In the case of Ingeo™ PLA, the dextrose used to produce it comes from field corn grown within a 300-mile radius of NatureWorks’ Blair, Nebraska, facility.
Bridge-Gate strategically located their factory in close proximity to where their raw materials are grown and harvested. Less fuel is required to transport them than would be required to truck pulp sheets from remotely located paper mills.
EcoTensil and EcoTaster spoons are made from far less material than their plastic counterparts. Five thousand spoons can fit in the same size box as one thousand plastic or bio-based spoons. And because they pack tightly they leave a smaller carbon footprint in transit.