Sustainable Operations Are Clean

You’ll see elsewhere on this site that sustainable operations comply with regulatory requirements; minimize consumption of materials, energy and resources such as air and water; and strive to re-use and recycle wherever possible. In addition, sustainable operations may be clean: they employ processes, methods and sources that have either no measurable negative impact on sustainability, or a significantly lower impact than widely-used conventional means.

The concept of clean is central to a mindset that enables members of a would-be-sustainable organization to critically examine the status quo, constantly see new ways to refine and improve operations, instill pride in sustainability and inspire employee participation. In this context, its highest value is as a yardstick: are your operations clean? Where could they be cleaner? The answers to those questions will guide you to the kinds of highly visible opportunities that win enthusiastic support by employees, your community and the press.

Apply the clean yardstick to supplies, suppliers, processes, effluents and the facility itself. Let it help carry you beyond energy efficiency to renewable sources, past emissions regulation compliance to eliminating the source, through process hazard assessments to bioprocesses. When your colleagues’ suggestions for eliminating waste start to run low, challenge them for ideas to make operations cleaner. Let the high visibility of clean be a constant reminder to challenge the sustainability of the status quo.

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