• Innovation and the role it serves in sustainability

    Posted on June 30th, 2012 palmucci No comments

    Innovation is a pretty broad topic in that it is somewhat involved in every idea that has been presented about.  After reading the assigned material, I decided to present the idea in a way that I grasp concepts easier, through example. The one example and concept that really interested me was directly showing innovation’s relationship with decoupling and the closed loop theory.  With my major of Industrial and Systems Engineering and a Green Engineering minor I love thinking of ways to make processes in industry greener and more efficient, which is why I found the next hypothetical situation very interesting.  I was posed with the thought of carpet companies ‘renting’ out their services instead of just selling a customer their product.  The idea is that your carpet would be composed of squares of material (for example, 3’x3’) instead of one large roll.  Once a certain section became worn out, it would be pulled up, easily replaced, and then sent back to the company who made it. If you think about it, EVERYONE uses carpets.  Such a high volume of them are made and chemically treated to ensure they last the maximum amount years for the optimal dollar. With that in mind, the amount of waste when disposing/replacing them must be astronomically high. What I started thinking about was how companies would react if they were required to take back the products that they created, in that customers wouldn’t just throw them away?  I feel like not only would manufacturers put more money into making better quality products (so they would last longer), but they would also start to use materials that could be easily broken down to make the same product once it was returned to them.  This would diminish the use of chemicals to treat their products because they would be much harder to work with them once they were sent back.  Now for cost.  If the government were to make a regulation that would charge people a fine (disposal fee) if they just threw away their carpets as opposed to sending them back to the company, people would be more inclined to spend that extra money towards an idea where they are not fined and at the same time are preventing unnecessary waste.  Then, a company could charge a little more for their service to ensure they made a profit.  As of now, Xerox does something like this and has prevented 2 billion pounds of potential waste from entering landfills.  I feel that if more industry were willing to try this, we could slowly move towards making less of a disruptive impact to the world we live in.  If I were to do this presentation again, considering I had more time, I would most definitely go into more detail about how innovation is directly or indirectly related to each and every person’s topic.  Each person researched and present on a different topic, so I think if I was able to explain innovation’s role that their topic has towards sustainability they would be able to relate and understand it on a different level more personal to them.


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