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Planet will only survive if we focus on sustainability, environmentalists say

Date:
April 1, 2015
Source:
Kaunas University of Technology (KUT)
Summary:
Diminishing or eliminating of waste is the main advantage of implementing sustainable development in business. It enables recycling, efficient usage of natural resources, allows businesses to save funds and improve life quality. Now researchers have provided sustainable development services for more than 120 companies. Business report that by implementing innovations they not only decreased environmental pollution, but also increased their production efficiency and profited financially.
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Lyophilization technology allows to preserve all nutrients and vitamins in fruit. This is one of the services provided for companies at KTU Food Research and Competence Center.
Credit: Image courtesy of Kaunas University of Technology (KUT)

Diminishing or eliminating of waste is the main advantage of implementing sustainable development in business. It enables recycling, efficient usage of natural resources, allows businesses to save funds and improve life quality. KTU has provided sustainable development services for more than 120 companies. Business report that by implementing innovations they not only decreased environmental pollution, but also increased their production efficiency and profited financially.

There are billions of tones plastic in the bottom of the world ocean which can reach up to one kilometre in depth and 70 % of the Aral sea has evaporated in last 40 years. There is enough food produced in the world to feed the population of 7 billion, however, 1,5 billion of them are overweight and almost a billion is starving. These are only a couple of examples proving that humanity has reached a turning point in its development. People and business must invest into sustainable development, otherwise our planet will cease to exist.

Focusing on sustainability is a long-term ideology of the world development. Among the objectives of sustainability are diminishing levels of poverty, improving quality of life, being able to suffice the basic needs of all humans, encouraging sustainable economic and political development, avoiding irreversible damages to natural resources, which have to be preserved for future generations.

Diminishing or eliminating of waste is the main advantage of implementing sustainable development in business. It enables recycling, efficient usage of natural resources, allows businesses to save funds and improve life quality. For example, Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) has created the water cleaning system for oil company Klaipėdos Nafta, which is 5 times more efficient in water cleaning that it is required by the law. The estimated pay-off time of the 'green' investment is less than 3 years.

Environment conscious innovations for business are being implemented by researchers of KTU's Institute of Environmental Engineering and Faculty of Chemical Technology, and National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre.

KTU has provided sustainable development services for more than 120 companies. Business report that by implementing innovations they not only decreased environmental pollution, but also increased their production efficiency and profited financially.

Also, sustainability is one of the deciding factors whether a project submitted for European grant is eligible for funding.

Most Efficient Innovation Implementation Scheme in the World

Head of KTU's Institute of Environmental Engineering professor Jurgis Staniškis is convinced that collaboration is the key for survival: "I agree with the claims of most progressive economists of today that we need a new macroeconomic system, based on collaboration. Cooperation, not competition is human nature."

KTU's Institute of Environmental Engineering has been researching sustainable development since 1992. During that time more than 100 international projects were undertaken and research and development services were provided for more than 120 companies. Among them -- Elgama-Elektronika, the leading manufacturer of electronic electric meters in the Baltics, Achema, one of the industry leaders in Lithuania and Baltics, Panoden, which is producing flexible polymer packaging and others.

The scheme for creating, funding and implementing preventive innovations conceived at the Institute has been recognised as the most efficient in the world by the representatives of United Nations. UN was using the scheme to identify sustainable development problems and possible solutions across the globe.

"Innovations have to be economically profitable, they can't be harmful to the environment, they need to be socially acceptable and to not interfere with our culture and heritage. Every solution and each innovation has to meet all the requirements of sustainable development. If any of them is missing, the innovation can not be accepted," says Staniškis.

It Pays Off to Go Green

There are four principles of sustainable development. First is technology. The production processes need to be reorganised so they become waste free. This is a way to save resources as well.

Eco-friendly production design is the second principle of sustainable development. The production needs to have minimal impact on environment during its whole life-cycle.

"We have redesigned more than 50 products for Lithuanian companies. For example, the meters of Elgama-Electronica were redesigned by introducing user eco-passport. This innovation minimises the impact on the environment. This product is been successfully sold to European market," says Staniškis.

The third principle is preventive environmental management. Ecological design and production processes need to be implemented into company's management system. Economically profitable continuous improvement is the result of management system, which can be achieved by implementing preventive measures. KTU's Institute of Environmental Engineering is encouraging companies to implement preventive management system, which saves resource, and advising companies which are implementing standardised environmental management systems.

Last, but not least, according to professor, is social responsibility. "Socially responsible business is taking part in societal life: in education, health care and culture systems," says Staniškis.

Sustainable Development Is Crucial for EU Funding

Staniškis emphasises that according to EU regulations only the projects which satisfy two horizontal requirements -- gender equality and sustainable development -- are eligible for funding. A company or organisation submitting a project has to prove that its decisions are meeting the four principles of sustainable development mentioned above.

Monitoring Commission appointed by Lithuanian Ministry of Finances is monitoring the usage of financial investments of EU funds. Professor Staniškis is among the members of this Commission.

"KTU's Institute of Environmental Engineering can assist in preparing the applications and providing advice for national and international companies seeking long-term sustainable solutions, optimising transport, energy, manufacturing and service providing processes," says Staniškis.

5 Times More Efficient Water Cleaning

Environmental Technology Department at the KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology has skills and experience in creating green technologies for environment-friendly solutions. Group of researchers lead by Viktoras Račys, PhD, have created water cleaning system which cleans water 5 times better than it is required by the regulations. Water cleaning system created at KTU employs adapted cultures of wild microorganisms. The project completed 7 years ago for oil company Klaipėdos Nafta has been recognised as a sustainable development success story.

Department of Environmental technology is also creating air cleaning, waste management, sustainable city development and soil cleaning technologies.

Račys is convinced that education in natural sciences is very important: "To create technologies one needs diverse knowledge: to know mathematics, physics, chemistry, to have data analysis and critical thinking skills. Those having in-depth knowledge of science will remain major players even in the changing world."

Development of Technology Is Creating Our Future

"Technological development gives us hope that the world will not become a dangerous prison. We don't have another Earth. Sustainable development technologies created at our department provide preventive measures for efficient caring for environment," says Račys.

He also emphasises the importance of social, economic and cultural fields of sustainable development.

The researcher is convinced that caring for environment has to be the main priority of the society, and business and industry have to create eco-friendly, resources-saving options for the environment damaging technologies.

Global corporations that are creating green technologies receive funding and support from government, which enables their further development. Although, Lithuanian laws in this field are not very strict, society, which cares for environment, could influence politicians and business.

Oil from Coffee Grounds

The laboratories of KTU Food Research and Technology Centre resemble small food factories where experimental products can be tested, and their manufacturing technology can be changed in any stage. Using state-of-the-art technology of the University companies save resources and reduce manufacturing waste.

Reda Aleksandravičienė, Head of the Centre, gives an example of making oil used for cosmetics products from coffee grounds.

"Oil from coffee grounds is a perfect example of waste recycling. It's a win-win situation: by recycling waste the company not only gets rid of it, but also makes money," says Aleksandravičienė.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Kaunas University of Technology (KUT). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Cite This Page:

Kaunas University of Technology (KUT). "Planet will only survive if we focus on sustainability, environmentalists say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150401084444.htm>.
Kaunas University of Technology (KUT). (2015, April 1). Planet will only survive if we focus on sustainability, environmentalists say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150401084444.htm
Kaunas University of Technology (KUT). "Planet will only survive if we focus on sustainability, environmentalists say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150401084444.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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