Table of Contents
In the era when the environment is degrading rapidly, businesses are shifting their focus from maximizing their profits only to developing sustainable means of production. It means that they have to plan their environmental impact at every point of their production cycle, starting from the input to the end user (Ghodrati et al. 1-2). Sustainable performance is not merely a matter of choice; companies have to adopt these measures to maintain clients, comply with international regulations, and fight off competition. Additionally, countries realize that the traditional way of development is poses a high risk to the human race as its adverse effects on the environment, particularly the quality of food and water and pollution-related diseases, are on the rise. Consequently, the concept of sustainable energy is gaining popularity in the world in an attempt to curb pollution and ensure healthy economic growth (OECD 6-8). There are a variety of energy alternatives that are suitable for sustainable production. They include solar power, wind power, recycling of wood waste, efficient use of vehicles, and the use of biofuels. Although there are some concerns about the high cost of implementation of green technologies, production of goods and services in an environmentally sustainable manner should be an international requirement because it reduces carbon emissions and improves the quality of life.
Ways to Produce Goods and Services in an Environmentally Sustainable Manner
Solar power is a cheaper source of energy, which involves the use of solar panels or photovoltaic materials to capture solar energy for domestic or industrial use. Although generation of this type of energy is largely dependent on sun availability, it produces a reasonable amount of power even in cloudy environments (Roos 2). However, for effective performance, solar panels should be installed away from shade, obstructions, and preferably, in places where they can tilt depending on the movement of the sun. Besides, they must be placed on higher grounds to provide maximum contact with sunrays, and power banks should be availed to store excess power for later use once the sun is gone (Roos 2-3). However, solar panels may not work well in crowded areas or those with adjacent high buildings, where there is not enough required space and sufficient contact with the sun, which affects their performance. The most common panels are the ones made of silicon as they are known for higher efficiency in conversion of sun rays into power compared to the other models. However, they require a reasonable surface area to increase the amount of energy output per unit area (Lofthouse et al. 2). Due to pressing energy needs and desire to reduce carbon emissions, most countries have adopted solar power to address the issue.
Solar energy has many benefits to traditional sources of energy. First, it is clean and renewable, and unlike other energy sources such as coal and petroleum products, produces neither solid waste nor carbon emissions. Traditional sources such as petroleum are not reliable on weather; however, their inability to maintain good air quality in their surroundings makes solar power an attractive alternative as it is not harmful to the environment. Lack of negative impact on the environment is one of the reasons which explain why some regions prefer to use solar power to bridge their energy gaps, especially in times of hot weather to support air conditioning. Apart from being clean and cheap, solar power eliminates an unnecessary strain on the electricity grid in the peak period as it is easily harnessed and transferred to the national network for distribution elsewhere. Hence, it reduces financial and environmental costs related to fossil fuel supported power generation. Therefore, solar energy is one of the means of sustainable production, the use of which should be a requirement.
Wind is another renewable source of power, which does not contribute to carbon emissions and waste in the environment. However, it interferes with the land use and radar operations among other effects. One can harness wind power from either offshore or onshore, with the former being the most popular due to the advantage of ocean currents. In Europe, the popularity of this source of power is on the rise due to its cleanness and availability. As a result, it is rapidly replacing other traditional sources of power such as coal and nuclear power plants at a higher pace (Pineda and Tardieu 14). In comparison to other sources of energy such as coal, its installed capacity is on the rise, with documented figures showing an increase from 6% to 16.7% between 2005 and 2016 (Pineda and Tardieu 14). By 2016, the total capacity of wind power installed in the entire Europe equaled 153.7 GW, with Germany and Spain being the leaders (Pineda and Tardieu 19). On the other hand, traditional means of generating energy such as coal burning and nuclear power are losing ground to clean energy. As technology improves, more wind power is expected to be generated both at a small and large-scale level. Furthermore, rapid depletion of fossil fuels as well as exorbitant costs of their exploitation and acquisition reinforces the need to use sustainable energy sources.
Although wind power causes some environmental concerns such as interference with human settlements, wildlife and higher initial costs of establishment and maintenance of wind turbines in comparison to the use of solar energy. Nevertheless, wind power remains an excellent option to reduce greenhouse emissions as it is renewable and occurs naturally. It produces neither gases nor solid waste and do not have an adverse effect on the quality of water or soil in its environs. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that wind power is a sustainable means for production of goods.
Efficient Use of Motor Vehicles
Transport plays a massive role in the movement of goods and people all over the world; therefore, it considerably contributes to carbon emissions in the environment. Most of the transport means use fossil fuels, which on combustion release carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other harmful gases to the atmosphere (Kodjak 1). Given its flexibility and affordability, road transport is the most used form of transportation, which constitutes the biggest percentage of traffic in cities. Most of road transport is diesel or gasoline powered, hence plays a significant role in environmental pollution. As a result, it affects the quality of the air and increases the rate of respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and lung infections in the environs (Kodjak 4). Ultimately, it results in reduced life expectancy and increased health costs to support the ailing population. Furthermore, greenhouse gases produced by traditional transport accelerate melting of glaciers and snowcaps of mountains, which not only creates future water problems but also leads to global warming. Measures such as investment in fuel-efficient engines, use of alternative means of transport, and investment in cleaner fuels will reduce the impact of vehicles on the environment.
First, the production of cleaner fuels reduces environmental pollution as it eliminates or minimizes concentration of pollutants such as sulfur from the fuels in the air. There are some parameters that define the acceptable amount of pollutants produced by industries and particular companies. For instance, the standard for sulfur in Europe is 10 to 15 parts per million for either diesel or motor spirit (Kodjak 7). Such kind of parameters considerably reduces pollution levels by arresting toxins at the point of production. Secondly, investment in fuel-efficient technology, whereby engines consume less fuel without affecting weight and distance covered in a given period, also reduces environment footprint of transport. The implication is that productivity improves at lesser financial and environmental costs. Additionally, investment in engines with the capability to handle fuel particulate efficiently ensures that the environment remains clean and free from pollutants. A good example of such engines is catalytic converters, which transform fuel emissions into unhazardous water vapor and gases through a chain of chemical reactions (Kodjak 7). These measures protect the environment against harmful pollutants and ensure that productivity is not achieved at the expense of human lives. Lastly, another alternative to the motor vehicles is the use of rail transport. Trains have a more significant capacity for passengers and cargo transportation in comparison to motor vehicles; hence they can save the environment from increased emissions. In fact, the amount of emissions generated by a train passenger per kilometer in comparison to a user of motor vehicles is lower. Trains significantly reduce congestion and guarantee transportation of more cargo at lesser financial and environmental costs. Therefore, they are a suitable means to the sustainable production of goods, and authorities should promote their use.
Recycling of Wood and Its Waste
Trees play a useful role in reducing global warming as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, when converted into a source of energy, they endanger lives as they not only leave the environment exposed to no means to deal with excess carbon dioxide but contribute to increased production of the gas. Therefore, there is a demand for tree preservation, which should be used not only used for energy production. Proper regulations should be in place to define what qualifies to be a byproduct or waste to avoid abuse. Article 5 of the European Waste Directive provides conditions that a byproduct must fulfill to fit the description. They include having additional uses, guaranteed use on further processing, and a resultant of the process (Van Dam et al. 36). Another efficient management of wood includes its reuse until it cannot serve the intended primary use. A good example of wood reuse is pallets, which are applied in packaging and the transport industry until they disintegrate. Their residue then serves as fuel for industrial processes (van Dam et al. 7). In an environmental perspective, reuse of wood reduces the rate of deforestation and ensures right disposal of waste, thus promoting sustainability.
Use of Biofuels
Biofuels serve as a good substitute for fossil fuels as they emit significantly smaller amount of greenhouse gases. They are combustible and work on fossil fuel engines without significant alterations, though their performance is slightly lower. Most commonly used sources of biofuels are rapeseed, sunflower and soybean oil. However, concerns over their competition with food production have prompted a shift towards the use of biomass in biofuel production, with good examples being food waste, plant waste and sewage effluent (Viesturs and Melece 213). Although the new generation of biofuels is developing from the use of algae, there remain environmental concerns such as commitment of large tracts of land toward energy production at the expense of food production, which will lead to food crisis in the future. Moreover, there is a risk that due to substantial energy demands, forests and grasslands among other critical ecological resources may disappear to pave the way for biofuel farms. It will negate efforts made towards environmental preservation.
Although biofuels have some disadvantages such as a lower calorific value and competition with food demands, they remain one of the best options to fight climate change. First, when compared to fossil fuels, overall contribution of biofuels to the production of greenhouse gases is lower. In Europe their popularity is constantly growing in in line with the requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive of 2009. Thus, the directive requires the members of European Union to meet 10% of their energy needs in the transport sector with biofuels (Viesturs and Melece 210). Secondly, production of biofuel is possible from multiple sources. They include food - derived biofuels that employ food materials such as rapeseed, sunflower, and soybeans to produce oil. The second and the third generation biofuels use biomass and microalgae respectively to produce fuels (Viesturs and Melece 214). Apart from being renewable, biofuels are smoothly blended into fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions. Given the advantages described above, it is worth investing in biofuels as an alternative fuel to enhance sustainability in goods production.
Challenges to Production of Goods in an Environmentally Sustainable Manner
Despite numerous advantages of environmentally sustainable production, the process is likely to face some challenges. The first one is the absence of reliable and clean sources of power to support the production of goods and services. Some of the green sources of energy such as solar power are weather reliant. Therefore, their supply is inconsistent and may require the use of back-up sources (Roos 2). Secondly, the amount of financial resources invested in in sustainable production is higher in comparison to traditional means of production, which makes it unattractive to indulge in the use of green energy. As a result, renewable energy is used only to serve small-scale operations.
With heavy industries being one of the biggest culprits in greenhouse emissions, solar power may not be an appropriate alternative to their energy requirements. Additionally, their inability to produce a high amount of energy from the limited surface area of their panels, relatively high costs of their installation, and lack of constant access to sun rays makes the use of solar panels not an ideal alternative in cities, where space is limited (Lofthouse et al. 2). As a result, companies cannot rely on solar power entirely, implying that they can only be employed on a part-time basis.
Other clean energy sources such as wind power have different environmental impacts which are hard to ignore. They include interference with the land use. Thus, vegetation on it has to make way for the wind turbines, consequently affecting animal and plant habitats in the environs. Besides, wind turbines harm birds with their spinning blades, especially if located along their migratory routes. Moreover, wind power plants cause noise pollution, interfere with the flow of electromagnetic waves as well as cellular networks. In some areas, heritage sites such as cultural forests have been lost and people were displaced from their ancestral homes due to construction of wind farms (Jaber 252-253). These kinds of challenges make wind power not a good alternative, especially if the primary concern is to safeguard the environment from further pollution.
The use of biofuels creates an environmental concern as well because large lands are needed for their cultivation. Grasslands and forests have disappeared to pave the way for biofuel farms, which causes more havoc to the environment than the intended repair (Viesturs and Melece 213). Besides, conversion of arable land from food to biofuel production is likely to create a food crisis for the human race, thus raising sustainability issues. Furthermore, costs such as subsidies and tax exemptions involved in support of biofuel programs are high and can otherwise support research in other sustainable areas, such as development of fuel-efficient engines. Besides, biofuels are costly compared to fossil fuels, hence their use is affected by the purchasing power of consumers, implying that not everyone will afford them (Viesturs and Melece 213). Moreover, since most businesses aim at maximizing profits, they will hardly prioritize the environment to cost savings. Lastly, having lower calorific value compared to conventional fuels make biofuels unattractive because large volumes of biofuel are necessary to produce energy. All these disadvantages make biofuels an uneconomical and inefficient means of production. The environmental and cost concerns distract potential users, thus encouraging them to stick to traditional fuels, which are relatively cheap.
Recycling of wood is a short-term measure towards the preservation of forests. However, in the long run, it is not a perfect cure as it does not stop further cutting down of trees to meet the intended uses. Recycling only postpones effects such as desertification and global warming. Furthermore, residue from some of the treated wood is hazardous to both the environment and the users, which means that they can only be incinerated or buried (Van Dam et al. 46). It implies that not all wood is recyclable and, thus, the process is not a perfect means to sustainable production. Finally, loopholes in the definition of wood waste may encourage the invasion of forests by loggers, who may harm maturing trees.
Motor vehicles powered by fossil fuels remain a concern to the environment regardless of their efficiency in fuel consumption. However, the unwillingness of people to embrace other means of transport such as bicycles makes it harder to reduce the use of motor vehicles (McKibbin 2). The implication is that traffic jams and road congestion will never cease as people will stick to motor vehicle use. Another factor is that fuel-efficient models remain costly, whereas less efficient ones are relatively affordable and, as a result, remain an attractive option to many consumers. Hence, the low cost of motor cars hinders adoption of better technologies. Besides, technology powered by alternative fuels such as hydrogen, electricity, and biofuels in the motor industry is developing at a slower pace compared to the rate of greenhouse emissions. As a result, the environment continues to deteriorate as solutions to the problem have minimal impact. There are also no uniform global standards to guide manufacturers, especially those with operations in more than one country, which explains their hesitance to fast-track research and production of fuel-efficient engines (An et al. 5). Most countries, especially in the third world, are yet to formulate the legal framework to support clean fuel initiatives, which makes the use fuel=-efficient motor vehicles a mirage (An et al. 20). They continue to rely on consumer goodwill when making purchase choices, which is not good given the lack of options and information when making such decisions. Moreover, most consumers are risk-averse as they hesitate to buy newly introduced and untested products. Therefore, unless fuel-efficient vehicles are enforced by authorities, consumers will stick to traditional means of transport.