Natural capitalism workshop promotes idea of green industry

by Seth Woehrle

Resource sharing, industrial ecology and green building design were just some of the topics discussed at a workshop sponsored by the Green Institute and the Work and the Environment Initiative on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Natural Capitalism Workshop on the University’s St. Paul campus focused on benefits of respecting the environment, including increased efficiency and profitability.
The workshop, “The Greening of Economic Opportunity,” featured several dozen speakers and hands-on activities that taught the participants the benefits of pollution prevention and sustainable development.
The workshop also discussed the concept of waste/energy cycles which are becoming popular in Europe and Asia.
Michael Krause of the Green Institute told of a foundry and a company that makes asphalt. The foundry uses sand to hold its molds, he said, and instead of hauling the sand to the landfill, the foundry gives the sand to the asphalt company.
“That’s an example of a waste byproduct from one industrial product being utilized as a substitute raw material in another,” said Krause.
He said he hopes that when the participants leave the workshop, they will have new insights on how industry and environmental stewardship can work together.
“Hopefully, they’ll take some new ideas with them but we would really like to fashion some strategy with the University as a partner and get some momentum behind (industrial ecology),” said Krause.
The proposed University Technology Incubator is a project that Krause says could be improved with the use of industrial ecology.
He proposes that the different firms that will take up residence in the area should work together in an efficient network rather than separately. “If you plan it as a system you can say, ‘Does it make sense for us to build five buildings that each have an office function in them? Or, is it possible to have one centralized facility that can house all of the office functions for six different companies?'”
The U.S. Economic Development Administration has funded programs at Cornell University and the University of Southern California to study topics like natural capitalism.
Krause would like to see the University join those universities and become involved in the area of industrial ecology, eventually offering classes in subjects related to natural capitalism.
Krause wants the classes to be part of the design, business and public affairs curriculums.
“I think that this is the way that business will operate in the not-too-distant future,” he said.

Seth Woehrle welcomes comments at [email protected].