August 14, 2015   |   Jake Anderson
August 14, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Many scientists warn that we’ve reached a point of no return when it comes to climate change. Some researchers believe we have already passed it, citing new evidence that the planet is warming even faster than worst-case forecasts from just last decade predicted. Around the world, industrialized nations and lesser-developed countries must both find ways to change the way humans generate energy, developing sustainable solutions that utilize renewable resources. It’s a Herculean challenge, but one on which future generations and billions of humans depend.
The transition to renewable, sustainable cities isn’t going to happen overnight and will require massive changes to the global industrial infrastructure. However, brilliant entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses, and even governments across the world are finally rising to the challenge.
Here are 10 inspiring innovations in renewable, sustainable energy:
1. Gravity-Powered Irrigation
Israel-based company Netafim won the 2013 Stockholm Water Award for creating low cost irrigation solutions for farmers in developing countries. The company’s specialized system drips precisely calibrated amounts of water right onto the roots of crops, distributed by an elevated tank that uniquely leverages gravity. The mechanism greatly reduces the need for electricity and some farming equipment. This system also helps to sustain agriculture in areas where scarcity from water and erosion of soil are big problems.
2. Saltwater Powered Air-conditioners
Almost 5% of all energy used in the United States comes from air conditioners. The process by which most units function is complex and uses a great deal of energy. The company Advantix is taking a different approach. Whereas traditional units use fresh water, their air conditioners use salt water. The use of salt water allows for the air to be dehumidified without having to cool it down. This leads to a 40% decrease in the amount energy necessary, which cuts down on carbon emissions and makes air conditioning a more viable option for the developing world.
3. Paper-thin Printed Solar Cells
New technology is reducing the cost of solar energy dramatically with each passing year — and the trend will continue. One of the major obstacles in widespread solar energy is the cost of investment, which is particularly prohibitive in developing nations. Fortunately, inexpensively printed solar cells may soon provide solar energy to 1.3 billion people across the world. The technology only requires an industrial printer, which can churn out flexible paper-thin solar cells that are easily transportable to rural areas. Printed solar cells have increased in efficiency from 3% to 20% in just a few years.
4. Tire Waste Upcycling
Activist Niki Okuk founded a tire waste upcycling company called Rco² Material Reuse, which states on its website:
“Every truck tire contains 22 gallons of oil. Those twenty-two gallons do not include the energy used in extraction, production, and shipping; meaning tires represent a significant carbon footprint. While tires are extremely durable and versatile they are primarily dumped in landfills, contributing to a growing waste problem, 300 million tires end up in landfills in the US every year.”
What is Niki and her Southern California-based team doing about this massive problem? They’re tackling it from a community level and, in the process, creating green-collar jobs in Compton, a city that desperately needs economic activity. The company works to reroute petroleum waste from landfills and turn it into new products. Their motto is that “all of our consumer products need to be reduced, reused, and then recycled.”
5. Friendly Resource Technology
Fairphone, run out of the Netherlands, is creating a socially responsible supply chain in the area of consumer electronics. Using responsible mining practices (and providing decent wages and good working hours), Fairphone is separating itself from the harmful practices of larger manufacturers and helping to conserve resources.
In Nigeria, a crisis has developed over the local government’s inability to collect all the waste produced. This has led to Wecycling programs, which are a group of cargo bicycles that circle the city, collecting recyclable goods. Families are encouraged to recycle and receive points on cell phones for every kilogram recycled. These points can be redeemed for more cell phone minutes, basic food items, and household goods.
7. Solar Suitcases
In the developing world, maternal mortality is a huge problem, claiming the lives of approximately 800 women a day. Solar suitcases provide enough energy for medical lighting, essential communication, and other medical instruments. This provides much-needed medical care to those who would otherwise receive no treatment for maternal complications. Solar suitcases are really improving obstetric care and include the use of “high-efficiency LED medical task lighting.”
8. Bike Sharing Systems
While carpooling and public transit are great ways to cut down on CO2 emissions, riding a bike can be just as effective. Many cities are adopting bike sharing establishments that allow people to rent a bike and drop it off when they are done. This is cutting down on the amount of carbon in the air by reducing car traffic. Smartphone apps are also being developed to make bike sharing more feasible on a city-wide scale.
9. Carbon Negative Plastic
This promising technological innovation could drastically reduce the amount of carbon in our air. Instead of using oil to create plastics, air carbon is created by trapping the carbon emissions that have already been released into the air. The amount of emissions created while making this special type of plastic is far less than that released in the process of producing traditional plastic.
10. Floating Schools
In Bangladesh, rising sea levels have already begun to force some people from their homes. One tragic result of this is that children are missing school. An incredible solution has been developed in floating classrooms: solar powered boats pick students up and teachers hold class on-board.
There are different ways to refer to the aforementioned innovations. Some of them are sustainable solutions, some deal directly with the harnessing of renewable energy, and some are just unique ways to upcycle and recycle available resources. However you want to describe them, it may be most useful to look at these ideas and technologies through the lens of progress. Climate change and environmental degradation will not be solved in one generation. It will take decades of societal and behavioral modification from the top down in order to live sustainably in a way that does not destroy the Earth’s ecosystems.
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Jake Anderson joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in April of 2015. His topics of interest include social justice, science, corporatocracy, and dystopian science fiction. He currently resides in Escondido, California. Learn more about Anderson here!