Home Internet of Things Aerospace Apparel Energy Defense Health Care Logistics Manufacturing Retail

Access This Premium Content

Options To Access This Article:

What Subscribers Are Saying

  • "Probably the best investment I've ever made."
    Steve Meizlish, President & CEO, MeizCorp Services, Inc.
  • "I have found that RFID Journal provides an objective viewpoint of RFID. It you are looking for a resource that provides insights as to the application and implications of deploying RFID, RFID Journal will meet your needs, It gives you a broad perspective of RFID, beyond the retail supply chain."
    Mike O'Shea, Director of Corporate AutoID/RFID Strategies & Technologies, Kimberly-Clark Corp.
  • "No other source provides the consistent value-added insight that Mark Robert and his staff do. In a world dominated by press release after press release, RFID Journal is developing as the one place to go to make the most sense out of the present and future of RFID in commerce."
    Bob Hurley, Project Leader for RFID, Bayer HealthCare's Consumer Care Division
  • "RFID Journal is the one go-to source for information on the latest in RFID technology."
    Bruce Keim, Director, Hewlett-Packard
  • "RFID Journal is the only source I need to keep up to the minute with the happenings in the RFID world."
    Blair Hawley, VP of Supply Chain, Remington Products Company

RFID's Greener Side

Tracking tagged goods—and recycling their packaging—will reduce our energy needs.
By Kevin Ashton
Dec 11, 2007— There was a minor and unmarked passing in the world of RFID earlier this year. The blogger known only as "Green RFID Guy" announced that he had "essentially abandoned" his site about the environmental benefits of radio frequency identification. "What happened?" he asked. "Life, I guess. Sad but true."

But there's good news. First, Green RFID Guy's blog is staying online: You can read his old posts at www.greenRFIDguy.com. Second, and most important, he didn't stop blogging because there was no story to tell. RFID is, and always has been, a technology with great potential in the battle against global warming and—if you choose not to believe that—the war on waste and damage to the landscape.

Most environmentalists focus on energy production and consumption, with good reason. Producing and consuming energy typically creates carbon, and carbon is the biggest driver of climate change. RFID has little to do with energy (although forward-thinking oil companies such as BP are among the pioneers of RFID-based sensor networks), so its role as an environmentally friendly "clean technology" is often overlooked.

But RFID can have a huge impact on the things we use energy for—things such as the manufacture and transport of goods. Here's one example from Cornell University ecologist David Pimental: Growing, picking, processing and transporting a pound of lettuce from a farm in California to a store in New York burns about 4,800 calories of carbon-emitting fossil fuel. If the lettuce is just ordered as "safety stock"—the supply-chain professional's polite term for "stuff we probably won't need, but better have just in case"—chances are it doesn't get sold and is thrown away. So the lettuce represents thousands of calories of wasted energy. RFID improves supply-chain visibility, reduces overstocks and eliminates most of the need for safety stock. This increased efficiency in manufacturing and transportation eliminates a good chunk of energy consumption.

Here's another scenario: The lettuce is needed, but it is rejected by the store because it has spoiled en route. In that case, the energy hit is more painful. The truck is turned around and typically goes back to where it came from and another truck is dispatched in its place, multiplying the energy consumption. RFID-enabled sensor networks can prevent this by tracking the freshness of the product in transit and making sure it gets to its destination before it spoils.

And that's not all RFID has to offer. Once products are consumed, the packaging is thrown away. Recycling this waste is a hit-or-miss business. For example, it is both difficult and expensive to manually sort different kinds of plastic, so lots of it is either never recycled or recycled into a low-grade cocktail of mixed-up stuff that isn't terribly useful. The same RFID tag that can reduce excess inventory can also identify what every package is made of, enabling the automated sorting of garbage. Once sorted, the waste material can be turned into raw material. And because plastics are made from oil, more recycling means saving energy—and maybe the planet in the process.

It may be the end for Green RFID Guy, but it's just the beginning for green RFID.

Kevin Ashton was cofounder and executive director of the Auto-ID Center.
To continue reading this article, please log in or choose a purchase option.

Option 1: Become a Premium Member.

One-year subscription, unlimited access to Premium Content: $189

Gain access to all of our premium content and receive 10% off RFID Reports and RFID Events!

Option 2: Purchase access to this specific article.

This article contains 533 words and 1 page. Purchase Price: $19.99

Upgrade now, and you'll get immediate access to:

  • Case Studies

    Our in-dept case-study articles show you, step by step, how early adopters assessed the business case for an application, piloted it and rolled out the technology.

    Free Sample: How Cognizant Cut Costs by Deploying RFID to Track IT Assets

  • Best Practices

    The best way to avoid pitfalls is to know what best practices early adopters have already established. Our best practices have helped hundreds of companies do just that.

  • How-To Articles

    Don’t waste time trying to figure out how to RFID-enable a forklift, or deciding whether to use fixed or mobile readers. Our how-to articles provide practical advice and reliable answers to many implementation questions.

  • Features

    These informative articles focus on adoption issues, standards and other important trends in the RFID industry.

    Free Sample: Europe Is Rolling Out RFID

  • Magazine Articles

    All RFID Journal Premium Subscribers receive our bimonthly RFID Journal print magazine at no extra cost, and also have access to the complete online archive of magazine articles from past years.

Become a member today!

RFID Journal LIVE! RFID in Health Care LIVE! LatAm LIVE! Brasil LIVE! Europe RFID Connect Virtual Events RFID Journal Awards Webinars Presentations