Gauging the green demand

Composites Technology's editor-in-chief Jeff Sloan suggests a green bottom-line proposition: if your customers demand products that allow them to minimize their effect on the environment, then it behooves you to develop such products.
#sustainability #gerenewable #windblades


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At a composites industry tradeshow recently, someone asked me a question that caught me a little short: “Do you think all this emphasis on ‘green’ is real and sustainable, or just a passing fad?” I provided what was not, I’m sure, a memorable answer. Thankfully, my questioner had an answer of his own: “I was dubious at first, but the fact is that we’re seeing a lot of demand from our customers for green products.”

And of course, that’s the bottom line. No matter what you think of renewable energy, environmental responsibility, bio-based resins, natural fibers, recyclability, product lifecycle management, the low-VOC push and other green manifestations, if your customers demand products that allow them to minimize their effect on the environment, then it behooves you to develop such products. And when customers have been as hard to find and keep as they have been the last couple of years, the impetus to carefully identify and meet customer needs is particularly acute.

Indeed, this burgeoning environmental sensitivity could prove temporary. But as you look around, it’s not hard to convince yourself that greenism is here to stay: Oil is washing up on the shores along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s possible that “peak oil” has passed. The oil-rich Middle East remains politically unstable — the war in Iraq started, at least partially, with oil in mind. Demand for oil from emerging China and India continues to grow. All signal that our traditional fossil-based resources are not only limited and diminishing, but ever more difficult and dangerous to retrieve as well.

In the composites community, we like to note that our materials help meet green demands by allowing manufacture of high-strength, lightweight structures that help increase fuel efficiency and, in some cases, provide recyclability. But even the greenest of resins still rely partially on petrochemicals, and all composites manufacturing processes, despite the welcome advent of closed molding, continue to have some impact on the environment.

In this issue you’ll find two “Speaking Out” columns that exemplify a broader sensitivity to environmental sustainability. In "The green challenge" (see "Editor's Picks" at right), Hugo Giffard, an engineer at LM Wind Power in Quebec, issues a call for vendors who can help LM recycle scrap glass fiber from its wind blade manufacturing operations. In the other, Pat Hooper, an environmental consultant from California, reviews the potential hazards of the polymeric chemicals behind that “new car smell,” noting that her state’s government is taking steps to regulate these chemicals — and reminding us that as California goes on such things, so goes the rest of North America (see "That 'new car' smell," under "Editor's Picks"). Additionally, our feature on composites in auto interiors profiles current greening efforts in commercial applications. (Click on "Interior innovation: The value proposition," under "Editor's Picks".)

We’ll keep tabs on these signals from customers and governments alike, and do all we can to help you meet the needs and expectations of both.


If you’re a supplier to the composites industry, you’ve probably received your yearly e-mail reminder to update your free listing in our SOURCEBOOK buyer’s guide, to ensure that our readers have accurate info about who you are, how you serve the composites community and how to get in touch with you. Your update is instant to the online SOURCEBOOK and is a prerequisite to its appearance in the annual print directory later this year. If you missed that e-mail, or have no listing but would like one, contact managing editor Mike Musselman (mike@compositesworld.com).