I may be dating myself when I tell you I sported an official Earth Day pin on the collar of my denim jacket back in 1970. At the time, I thought it was cool to support the cause, but I was too young to really understand its true meaning.

As we all know, the greening of America has gone way beyond the hippie movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s and morphed into an industry of its own via the last decade’s modern environmentalists.

Regardless of your opinion on the existence of global warming, there’s no stopping the sustainability movement’s surge. Entire new industries have emerged to help corporations and individuals save energy, reduce waste and emissions and improve the planet. Jobs titles that were inconceivable in the early ‘90s now are commonplace. If your company doesn’t have a director of sustainability or environmental affairs, you better get one soon.

In many food and beverage manufacturing plants, the sustainability movement is also part of the quest for continuous improvement. Implementing a new automation tool to reduce staff or reducing the time it takes to run a processing line also supports sustainability measures.

In this issue, we are featuring the US food and beverage industry’s largest LEED green-certified processing facility. The story about Gatorade’s fabulous food plant in the Blue Ridge Mountains begins on page 71.

Next month in Food Engineering, we will focus on energy saving. Look for our story on the GridWise Alliance, a consortium of public and private stakeholders who are aligned behind an electric system that integrates the infrastructure, processes, devices, information and market structure so energy can be generated, distributed and consumed more efficiently and cost effectively, thereby achieving a more resilient, secure and reliable energy system.

Just as I am writing this column in late September, the largest-ever meeting covering global warming is underway at the United Nations. If we go on with business as usual, says one of the meeting’s key leaders, it could seriously lead to the collapse of civilization in the lifetime of today’s children.

Harsh words, perhaps. But let’s hope the sustainability movement does not only make the pockets of the new emerging environmental companies greener, but that it really makes a difference in our resource usage and environmental responsibility.