Sustainability continues to grow in importance as an issue, both ecologically and sociologically. One source of resistance, I think, is the perceived cost of implementing sustainable practices vs the status quo. A recent article by Rosemary Grabowski in Consumer Goods Technology (CGT) outlines a number of practices and shows - among others things - why cost shouldn't be an issue. Sustainability isn't just good for the environment: it's good for the bottom line. Grabowski lists 10 requirements for sustainable strategies that also serve as drivers of business. I won't repeat them all here since you can read them for yourselves, but I'd like to highlight a couple that fit with the themes that we've already explored on this web site over the past year or so.
We have written a lot on sustainability on this web site, with examples such as Michael Doyle's blogs on sustainability, my own blog on methanol from biomass, or Michael Kopach's entry on incorporating green features into electronic lab notebooks (ELNs).
As a modeler I just love these topics because there's so much that software can contribute - in fact all 10 of Grabowski's requirements can be met this way. Open Collaboration, for example. This is an idea that P&G pioneered some years ago. Of course anyone can dump a new idea into the system, but you need a way to keep track of it, share it, add to it, and feed it back again. This is where software tools like ELNs come in. They also deliver centralized data, data continuity, and tracking, all of which are mentioned in the CGT article.
Another key requirement is Virtual Design. (You guessed it: as a modeler this is my absolute favorite topic.) Software has reached the stage where a lot of work can be done computationally rather than in the lab. No messy chemicals to clean up, no animals to experiment on, no toxic by products. The capabilities include alternative energy, more efficient use of resources, and the prediction of toxicology (see SlideShare for specific examples).
Sustainability shouldn't be a buzz word in 2011: it should be a serious consideration for all corporations and individuals concerned about the future. Software offers inexpensive and non-pollution solutions. I've touched on only a few here, but I'm really interested to hear from you folks out there. What are your challenges in sustainability and how are you meeting them? Whether with software or otherwise, let me know.