The hum of a chainsaw echoes in the distance while the rumble of trees crashing to the ground drown out the high-pitched “beep, beep, beep” of a truck backing up, ready to carry its next load to the lumber mill. Woodchips fly as workers viciously saw into tree trunks, dropping them one by one. When it’s all said and done, not a single tree stands in their wake, creating a barren patch of land that was once lush, full of vegetation.

Not much about this picture sounds good for the environment, or does it?

An increasing number of manufacturers are starting to realize the significant impact their industry has on our environment; therefore, they’re turning to sustainable manufacturing techniques to make up for their not so sustainable business practices.

Would the process depicted above seem so bad if you found out the company responsible for the deforestation went back in and planted over 10,000 new trees? What about if you discovered that the same company processing that wood used solar energy to power all of their equipment? Or, what if you realized that all of the waste produced from the sawmill actually went back into a biomass process that used the steam to power their facilities?

The U.S. Department of Commerce defines sustainable manufacturing as “the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound.” – a definition which isn’t far off from the picture painted above.

A growing number of companies treat “sustainability” as an important objective in their day-to-day operations. Every aspect of the manufacturing process – from design, through manufacturing, to shipping – is constantly being analyzed by industry leaders who are trying to create a more prosperous future for our environment.

It’s thinking like this that will help carry manufacturing into the 21st century.