Earning Your “Enviro-Wings”

Bob TontiJoin The Conversation

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Fancy Wings

Greater fuel economy means cost savings and also improved environmental performance. What’s not to like about that?! (Photo credit: theflyingengineer.com)

Have you ever watched a plane rumble down the runway and, seemingly in slow motion, majestically lift off into the sky? You may be an aeronautical engineer and understand how lift is created to overcome gravity, and thrust is created to overcome drag. I still watch, hold my breath, and say, “it’ll never work,” and then, amazingly, it does… every time. Yesterday I was on a plane and to this particular airline’s credit, the safety video was about “winglets.” Winglets are the curved-up tips of the airplane wings that have come into design in recent years to improve the lift-to-drag ratio and lower fuel consumption. I call them enviro-wings. I’m glad they lower fuel consumption and therefore help the environment. I also know they help the airline save fuel expense – so everyone wins.

Winglets are a pretty noticeable change in the look of the airplane, so it’s easy for the airlines to point the public to it and take credit for the environmental effort. But there are many “winglets” that industry builds into its products. We (the public) just might not see them. By example, Rain CII’s affiliated company, Rütgers, has made great strides in recent years to remove toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from some of its products by significantly redesigning the production process. This not only improves worker exposure when using these products, but also reduces the release of toxic PAHs into the environment. Finally, the products actually work better and Rütgers improves its profitability. So everyone wins. You can’t see the enviro-wings on these products, but that’s okay. We know they are there.

For industrial companies like ours, environmental responsibility means not only operating our facilities in environmental compliance every day and seeking to reduce environmental impact. It’s also making the right products that reduce environmental impact when they’re used. Environmentalists sometimes call this “product lifecycle impact,” which would be the subject of another blog. I prefer to call it the enviro-wings, which can only be earned.

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