Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products

Julia L F Goldstein,  Bebo Press,  $16.99


Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning ProductsWhen it comes to sustainability, many of us wonder about the environmental footprint we leave in our wake. Questions like, “Am I recycling enough?” and, “Can I be doing better?” can plague us. But maybe there are different questions we should be asking. Things like, “How are metals and plastics made?” or, “What happens when these materials are recycled?” 

These are questions that Julia L F Goldstein, author of Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products (and former 425 Business contributor), has asked herself many times. In fact, the questions confounded her so much that she set out to find the answer, and in so doing, discovered what engineers and manufacturers can do to better the planet. 

 

Goldstein recently sat down with 425 Business to discuss her book, which is due to be released this month. 


Q: Why sustainable manufacturing? What was it about this topic in particular that prompted you to write this book?

A: I’ve been fascinated by engineered materials ever since I took an introductory materials science course in college, but I didn’t always consider the environmental impact of all the amazing materials that engineers were inventing. In recent years, I’ve thought more about these issues and the responsibility of manufacturers to their employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate. The more I learned about companies embracing the triple bottom line — profit, people, planet — the more I became convinced that I should write a book focused on the materials aspect of sustainability. 

Q: Who is this book for? Would you say your target audience is business leaders, or are you trying to reach everyone in the manufacturing industry?

A: My target audience sees the phrase “more sustainable, less wasteful manufacturing” on the cover and immediately thinks, “Yes; we need that.” Business leaders are certainly in a position to implement changes at their companies, but other employees have influence as well. Industries that aren’t directly involved in manufacturing still buy computers, office supplies, and food service ware and can rethink how they are using these resources. … The book will appeal to smart, curious people who care about the environment.

Q: When people think about sustainability, they think Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But is that enough?

A: The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra is still relevant. The important thing to remember is the order and how you’re implementing it:

First, strive to reduce your use of materials and products. Keep inventory under control, and switch to reusable rather than disposable packaging. The cleanest type of energy is the type that is never generated. 

Next, focus on reuse — recycle the water used in business operations, sell or donate items you no longer need, and buy used goods whenever possible. 

Finally, merely tossing recyclables into a bin is not enough. China announced that beginning in mid-2018, it would no longer accept low-value waste streams from the United States and Europe. As a result, local recycling facilities are overwhelmed because the infrastructure isn’t prepared to process these materials at a reasonable cost.