I read Vicki Bell’s blog on green job opportunities and, frankly, wasn’t all that surprised to learn that this is still a small niche. While it’s encouraging that green awareness has taken hold and green jobs are out there, it’s a little disheartening that it has taken this long.
Manufacturing as we know it—the use of machines rather than manual methods, that is—dates back more than 200 years. In the early days many of the machines were steam-powered, and heating water to make steam required burning coal, and that’s anything but clean. Pollution controls were nonexistent, and the big industrial centers were filthy, dreary places. It took us a while, but society finally realized that the side effect of widespread industrial pollution was (quite literally) a dead end. Awareness of our impact on the environment finally gained some traction in the late 1960s and early 1970s:
- Legislative efforts to reduce smog and other air pollution started with the Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1963.
- Earth Day was founded on April 22, 1970, by Gaylord Nelson (at the time, a U.S. senator).
- The EPA was formed Dec. 2, 1970.
- Various bits of legislation intended to clean up U.S. waterways culminated in the Clean Water Act, formally known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments, in 1972.
To be honest, I think we had little more than talk for about four decades after that, so I share Vicki’s frustration with the slow growth of this area. That said, recent signs of progress show that we’re finally serious about using green (or sustainable or renewable or ecological or environmentally friendly) technologies.
- According to the Energy Information Administration (which is part of the Dept. of Energy), electricity generation by wind power tripled from 2003 to 2007. We also capture energy from the sun and methane from landfills to generate electricity, which increased 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in the same time frame.
- According to www.green-energy-efficient-homes.com, hybrid car sales grew from 5,000 per month in 2004 to 20,000 per month in 2010.
- Consumables suppliers of every stripe seem to be working relentlessly to remove volatile organic compounds, petroleum derivatives, heavy metals, and other toxins from their products. Of course, some of these actions are responses to specific legislation, but some are voluntary.
- Enter “sustainable manufacturing course” into your browser and see how many results you get. A few schools even offer degrees in sustainable manufacturing.
Need to know more about what you can do to contribute to sustainable manufacturing practices? We have you covered (with yet more signs of progress). Early this year FMAC Inc. rolled out a new magazine, Green Manufacturer, and accompanying Web site.