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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Sustainability and Climate Change Solutions: Innovations for a Greener Future

The world is facing an urgent need to address the challenges of sustainability and climate change. The effects of climate change are already being felt around the globe, with rising sea levels, more frequent natural disasters, and the loss of biodiversity. In response, there is a growing movement towards sustainable development and eco-friendly practices. Innovations in technology and new approaches to sustainability are emerging as key solutions to help mitigate the impact of climate change and create a more sustainable future.

This blog will explore the latest sustainability and climate change solutions, including innovations in green energy, renewable resources, sustainable agriculture, and transportation. We will also discuss the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and minimizing our environmental impact. By highlighting the latest innovations in sustainability, we hope to inspire action and promote a greener future for all.

Electric Vehicles

Since 1890, electric vehicles have captured the minds of socially-conscious societies. But it’s only recently that electric cars have captured the world’s hearts

That’s because, for the first time since the combustible engine, automakers realize electric vehicles’ potential for profit and positive climate action. 

The reason? Dramatically reduced carbon emissions.

A traditional gas guzzler emits 11,435 pounds of CO2 per year, while an all-electric vehicle contributes 3,932 pounds of CO2 (the vehicle itself emits zero pounds, but the power plant that produces the electricity emits carbon).

As a result, an increasing number of cities—from New York to Shenzhen—are mandating the switch to electric vehicles.

The disruptive innovation of the electric vehicle is changing our automotive future in three key areas:

  • Personal transport – All-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid electric vehicles are becoming more widespread. In 2021, over 6.6 million electric cars were sold, and this number is expected to rise every year. Soon, highways may be full of carbon-friendly sparks—not carbon-heavy emissions.
  • Public transport – To reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, many major cities are adopting sustainable practices like electric public transport vehicles. In China, for instance, uses dominant public transportation, and many European cities are expected to follow suit.
  • Private trucking – The days of gas-guzzling big rigs barreling down the interstate may soon be over. Instead, shipping lanes may soon be dominated by trucks. In fact, some pundits predict that by 2030, battery-electric commercial vehicles may surpass traditional EV sales.

Plastic Recycling Technology

From grocery bags to automotive parts, plastic materials dominate many societies. While plastic does offer affordability and convenience (plastic spork, anyone?) it also contributes to climate change in two important ways:

  • Plastic manufacturing – Manufacturing plastics involves burning a ton of fossil fuels, primarily petroleum. In fact, petroleum is so central to plastic manufacturing that some scientists speculate that if we don’t reduce plastic consumption, 20% of oil production will go towards plastics manufacturing by 2050.
  • Plastic recycling – Although blue recycling bins are mainstays in most modern households, the truth is most plastic doesn’t get recycled. Instead, most recycled plastic gets dumped into landfills. Even worse? A sizable percentage of plastic waste makes its way into lakes and oceans, where it releases greenhouse gas emissions as it breaks down. This waste also poses a significant danger to marine life.

Given these problems, plastic manufacturing and recycling processes that incorporate sustainable practices and green technologies in their business model will dramatically reduce the material’s negative environmental impact.

In recent years, sustainable polymer (i.e., plastics) research has increased exponentially. Now, scientists are working on the following innovative plastic initiatives:

  • Plastic-eating bacteria – Some bacteria species are known to munch on non-biodegradable plastics and turn them into biodegradable polyester. Scientists are working to genetically modify these bacteria so that they become even better plastic-munching powerhouses.
  • Turning plastics back into oil – If plastic is derived from petroleum, why can’t it also be broken back down into fat? That’s what scientists are asking while designing depolymerization technologies that can potentially transform plastics into biodegradable materials.
  • Getting smart with “smart” polymers – Some companies are experimenting with replacing non-biodegradable polymers with smart polymers as a way to facilitate biodegradability. That way, households, and corporations can more easily recycle plastics.

Green Financial Products

When it comes to innovations creating a greener future, green financial products are often an afterthought. After all, reducing plastic use seems a smidge more doable in your day-to-day than advocating for financial products that can help address your carbon footprint.

But without eco-friendly financial practices, many companies and governments won’t fund green initiatives in the first place. What’s more, failing to implement green financial practices further empowers the big banks that fund the vast majority of fossil fuel extraction.

In short, if money talks, no voice should be louder than clean, green money. 

Here’s how innovative and sustainable financial services are making it easy to make a big environmental difference:

  • Green home loans – Many mortgages and government-backed loans incentivize clean energy by offering lower interest rates for homes that meet certain energy-efficient criteria. Additionally, many financial institutions offer commercial builders discounted loans for projects that involve green leadership and solar technologies.
  • Green debit and credit accounts – More and more credit card companies are reimagining what it means to “spend & save.” That’s because these green financial companies are linking purchases to positive climate initiatives. In addition, many green credit card companies offer green financial products such as global carbon offsets, discounts and cashback for environmentally-friendly purchases, and green manufacturing.
  • Green investments – From funding reforestation projects to selling bonds for clean-energy projects, green investments are innovative financial products that can help counter the funding of fossil fuel initiatives.

Solar Energy

While we can produce electricity from several resources, the most common source is our natural resource coal. This means that most electrical production negatively impacts the environment.

A possible sustainable solution? Harnessing the power of the sun.

Although we’ve known about solar power since the discovery of the photovoltaic effect in the mid-1800s, solar power is slowly gaining traction in the 21st century. In fact, solar power still comprises less than 1% of U.S. electrical generation. 

But that may soon change.

Solar power shouldn’t be discounted when it comes to sustainability innovation. Solar power can help usher in a greener future in the following ways:

  • Energy from the sun is inexhaustible – As the classic song goes, “The sun will come out tomorrow…” And the next day, and the next day, and—we think you can get where we’re heading with this. The sun is a resource that will keep on giving for a longlong time.
  • Reduces carbon emissions – Unlike coal mining and oil production, solar power produces very little carbon emissions. In fact, the photovoltaic process emits no carbon; the only carbon emitted is during the solar panel construction process.
  • Provides electricity to impoverished areas – Much of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Caribbean, lacks access to electricity. As a result, many companies are expanding their electrical grids into these areas. While access to electricity is ultimately a good thing, these companies use grids that run off fossil fuels. However, in recent years, many companies have subsidized solar power projects in these areas as a part of their sustainable business strategy. These projects provide much-needed power while helping to tackle our carbon footprint.

Carbon-Capturing Technology

Rather than eliminating carbon emissions by reducing the use of carbon products altogether, some innovative technologies are becoming better at capturing carbon after it’s emitted into the environment.

The green innovation of carbon-capturing technologies, while still relatively young, are showing big results. Studies suggest that carbon-capturing technologies can trap 90% of carbon emissions.

At present, carbon-capturing technologies take three primary forms:

  • Post-combustion – Post-combustion carbon capture refers to the method where CO2 is separated and captured from the flue gas, which is a byproduct of coal combustion.
  • Pre-combustion – Pre-combustion carbon capture involves separating and capturing CO2 before the combustion process is complete.
  • Oxyfuel – While not technically a carbon capture technology, oxyfuel has been used to separate CO2 from the combustion process. It works by introducing pure oxygen into the combustion process.

As stated above, carbon capturing is a green innovation capable of significantly reducing carbon levels. However, as of now, carbon capturing is expensive. Nevertheless, scientists and engineers are continuing to experiment with carbon-capturing technologies to lower their costs.

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