Solution: Production of Goods PDF Print E-mail

Solution: Production of Goods

We need to delegitimize our culture of consumerism (“shop ‘til you drop”). We cannot continue western binge habits while denying the poor a decent standard of living. In addition, goods need to be produced without poisoning our air, land, and water, and we need to require Green Purchasing by businesses, universities, governments.

Corporations need to use the concept of Zero Waste, (also called Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) or a "cradle-to-cradle" analysis). Many corporations are already working on the system in which manufacturers design the production system instead of designing just the product. The Zero Waste concept means creating materials in a way that eliminates wastes, so there is no need for waste management. This changes both long- and short-term incentives. Manufacturers redesign products to reduce material consumption and facilitate reuse, recycling and recovery. The goal is efficient production of all the goods and services society needs without any form of waste--no liquid waste, no gaseous waste, and no solid waste.

Our tools are always employed in the service of an ideology. Bill McKibben

The primary tool used to achieve Zero Waste is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). “Producer Responsibility,” or “Take Back” laws, are now law in 29 countries. EPR provides the missing link between product design and recycling, and makes it economic to design for disassembly, develop reverse logistical systems, and create demanufacturing strategies.

Another tool for creating Zero Waste is for manufacturers to lease or rent their products to consumers, making the product a service, which means a manufacturer takes responsibility for a product, for its entire life. With this approach, Paul Hawken says the “goal is selling results rather than equipment, performance and satisfaction rather than motors, fans, plastics, or condensers. In a service economy, the product is a means, not an end.”

"Waste is too expensive; it’s cheaper to do the right thing." Paul Hawken

Any part of a product that cannot be reused as “technical nutrients,” creating a closed loop, must be biodegradable. This requires shifting to a “carbohydrate economy.” By 1990, for every industrial product except paper, petroleum had replaced starch, vegetable oil, and cellulose, the three components of plant matter that had been used to create synthetics. These petrochemicals have created a toxic environment, these plastics never biodegrade.

Anything made from a hydrocarbon can be made from a carbohydrate. It is possible to replace all petrochemical products with products made from biochemicals: plant matter, which makes them highly biodegradable. They also improve workplace safety. Substituting biochemicals can be a permanent solution to regulatory compliance and reduces both upstream (manufacturing) and downstream (waste) pollution. When all costs are considered, biochemicals are competitive with petrochemicals, especially if subsidies went to biodegradable products rather than petrochemical products.


The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of production and consumption, particularly in industrialized countries. - United Nations Agenda 21 Report

At least 40% of the trees logged are for paper. The primary solution is to use tree-free pulp for papermaking. This can be done by using either agricultural residues (the wastes—straw--left over after harvesting crops) or using the “on purpose” crops, kenaf or hemp. Using ag-residues does not require any additional land use and there is a lot of it. Agripulp can also replace wood in products such as building and insulating materials, particleboard, and various grades of paper and paperboard. Making paper out of agricultural wastes means that farmers can reap a "second harvest" from growing grains.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture investigated more than 500 plants to find the best fiber for pulping paper. Historically, although hemp has been the most recognized plant for tree-free paper, the USDA identified another plant, kenaf, as a viable fiber to produce tree-free paper. Due to its lighter color, kenaf can be bleached using chlorine-free agents such as ozone, hydrogen peroxide, and oxygen, eliminating the chlorinated compounds that create dioxin.

However, hemp is the world's most versatile fiber. Industrial hemp produces the longest and strongest natural fiber in the plant kingdom. Almost any product that can be made from wood, cotton, or petroleum (including plastics) can be made from hemp. There are more than 25,000 known uses for hemp. The greatest future market for industrial hemp products is predicted to be automobile parts (industrial hemp is an excellent and cost efficient replacement for fiberglass parts). It’s current largest market is considered to be foods. Hemp also makes excellent paper. Hemp paper is longer lasting than wood pulp paper, stronger, acid-free, and chlorine free.

Hemp is related to the marijuana plant, and even though it has no psychoactive levels of THC, the Drug Enforcement Administration will not allow the growing of industrial hemp. There is no federal statute outlawing the cultivation of hemp, just the DEA's insistence that hemp is an illegal drug.

Were.hemp cultivation to become legal in the U.S., only 1% of the nation's farmland would be required to achieve paper self-sufficiency. We would no longer need to use trees to make paper. Like kenaf, hemp production would also give farmers new sources of income. This income would particularly benefit communities looking for a substitute crop for tobacco.

Creating paper from plants and using plants instead of petroleum to substitute for petrochemicals and plastics, offers ways to revitalizing rural areas and small towns. Because of the high cost of transporting agricultural residues, kenaf or hemp, small and medium sized paper mills would have to be built in rural areas, near the farms that supply the residues, and farmers can create co-ops to own them. Pulping agricultural residues is most efficient and economical at small, local mills. With state-of-the-art technology, smaller, local mills can improve regional economies by creating jobs at a number of facilities rather than centralizing them at huge mills. Decentralization also cuts the environmental and economic costs of transportation. The same is also true for creating plastics form plants. These biochemical refineries, like paper mills, would need to be small and close to their raw material source, and could result in thousands of new small processing and manufacturing facilities in rural America.

" Doing it nature's way" has the potential to change the way we grow food, make materials, harness energy, heal ourselves, store information, and conduct business. In each case, nature would be model, measure, and mentor. Janine Benyus, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

LINKS to Sites on Materials Production

GrassRoots Recycling Network

Container Recycling Institute and

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition 
The Right-to-Know Network

North American Industrial Hemp Council

Computer Takeback Campaign

Extended Producer Responsibility

Zero Waste Zero Emissions and Initiatives 



Mines and Communities

No dirty Gold

Green Buildings

American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

Environmental Construction Outfitters

Environmental Home Center


Green Home Building

Sustainable Building

Building Environmental Science & Technology

Green Home

Sustainable Building Sources



Web-Based Paper Calculator

Rethink Paper htpp:// 
ForestEthics’ Paper Campaign

Co-op America’s WoodWise Program


The Container Recycling Institute

GRRN’s Ending Landfilling

Lamp Recycling


Center for a New American Dream

New Road Map Foundation National Foundation of Consumer Credit Counseling Services

Debt Advice

Simple Living Network

Take Back Your Time Day

About the Ecological Footprint

Earth 911 -Aluminum Can Recycling and Electronics Recycling

Ecological Footprint Quiz

Good Stuff 
Recycle Rechargeable Batteries

Recycle cell phones

Global Recycling Network

Information on recycling batteries, chemicals and liquids, electronics, glass, minerals, paper, plastics, scrap metal, tire and rubber.

GrassRoots Recycling Network

GRRN’s Zero Waste:

GRRN’s Producer Take-Back National Recycling Coalition, Inc.

Voluntary Simplicity 
Center for a New American Dream

Turn the Tide Program

The Simple Living Network

Co-op America’s Green Pages Online

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance 
Conservation Economy page on Product

The Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies

Environmental Defense Scorecard

Green Purchasing

Center for a New American Dream's Procurement Strategies Program

Consumer's Choice Council

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program and Database,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

European Green Purchasing Network

European Union Coalition for Green and Social Procurement


Green Seal


International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives,
Eco-Procurement Programme (

Japan's Green Purchasing Network (

Massachusetts Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Program (

National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Program (

The Natural Step (

North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Trade in Environmentally Preferable Goods and Services Project (

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (

Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative (

United Nations Environment Programme Sustainable Procurement Website

Guidelines, Standards, and Ecolabeling Schemes

Canada's Environmental Choice program (

EnerGuide (

Energy Star (

European Union Eco-Label (

Global Ecolabeling Network (

Scientific Certification Systems (



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