In the report, Our Common Future, sustainable development is defined as "meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations" (United Nations World Commission on the Environment and Development 1987). The concept of sus-tainability is illustrated by natural ecosystems, such as the hydrologic cycle and the food cycle involving plants and animals. These systems function as semi-closed loops that change slowly, at a rate that allows time for natural adaptation.
In contrast to nature, material flows through our economy in one direction only—from raw material toward eventual disposal as industrial or municipal waste (see part (a) in Figure 3.5.1). Sustainable development demands change. When a product's design and manufacturing process are changed, the overall environmental impact can be reduced. Green design emphasizes the efficient use of materials and energy, reduction of waste toxicity, and reuse and recycling of materials (see part (b) in Figure 3.5.1).
SM seeks to meet consumer demands for products without compromising the resource and energy supply of future generations. SM is a comprehensive business strategy that maximizes the economic and environmental returns on a variety of innovative pollution prevention techniques (Kennedy 1993). These techniques including the following:
Design for environment (DFE) directs research and development (R&D) teams to develop products that are environmentally responsible. This effort revolves on product design.
Toxics use reduction (TUR) considers the internal chemical risks and potential external pollution risks at the process and worker level.
LCA defines the material usage and environmental impact over the life of a product.
SM embeds corporate environmental responsibility into material selection, process and facility design, marketing, strategic planning, cost accounting, and waste disposal.
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