It Matters Where It’s Made
Considerations for Contract Manufacturing of New Climate Tech Devices
Making a difference in reducing the emissions of greenhouse-gasses (GHG) requires changes in a myriad of devices that are used daily in our modern life. In the total lifetime of each of those devices, GHG emissions during use is often the focus though for many products. However, there are products such as mobile phones and other consumer electronics, packaging materials, clothing and many lower-cost household furnishings where the GHG impacts result from the materials, initial manufacturing and shipping to the end customer. Use of the products may involve no production of GHGs – but the product may still have a significant “carbon footprint.”
Products designed to have lower GHG emissions in use compared to products they are to replace, such as an induction oven compared to a conventional natural gas oven, can be very helpful in achieving longer-term GHG reductions. Assuming the materials used and GHGs emitted during manufacturing and at the end of product life are similar, the GHG reductions for the use case of an induction oven are going to make all the difference.
A still greater impact might be made by selecting materials and manufacturing processes that have lower GHG content for the initial product. Materials selection can be complex depending on customer product requirements, supply-chain availability, design-for-manufacturing limitations and end of product life options. There are many resources now in development, such as “The Circular Economy Resource Registry” (https://www.nist.gov/circular-economy/data-decision-tools ) in development at the National Institute of Standards and Technology that will be a platform for finding data, tools, and informational resources useful to facilitating a circular economy.
Selecting contract manufacturers that use energy from non-fossil fuel generation is an approach that can be done with a minimal amount of effort that offers the potential for immediate reduction of GHGs. Climate tech product developers are encouraged to add requirements on energy sources used in production to qualify contract manufacturers. Seeking contract manufacturers in areas where most of the available energy used in manufacturing comes from non-fossil fuel and renewable sources is a way to begin the process.
Within the State of New York, where Scale For ClimateTech is based, the Upstate region is rich in contract manufacturing resources and non-fossil fuel energy. Some areas within the state have combinations of hydroelectric, wind and solar power generation that can provide 100% fossil-fuel-free electricity at industrial scale. While there are important initiatives underway (https://www.nyiso.com/-/new-transmission-investments-add-a-new-chapter-to-the-tale-of-two-grids-#🙂 to bring more renewable energy into the downstate New York area in the years ahead, upstate New York has the energy and infrastructure now to enable manufacturing of new climate tech equipment at scale.