As you might have noticed, environmentalism has enjoyed a severe boom in popularity in the past several years. People are pretty big on not dying in a natural cataclysm of our own design. But fearmongering aside, going green is commendable, and we fully support every individual and company doing its part.
So, in this article, we seek to break down the topic of GreenTech – what it is, its many aspects, and finally, what you can do to make the Earth a better, more habitable place.
What is GreenTech?
GreenTech or green technology refers to using technology and science to mitigate and possibly reverse humanity’s environmental impact. It specifically focuses on using renewable energy sources and eco-friendly resources to create better, more sustainable products and services.
Where Did GreenTech Start?
While the growing focus on environmental sustainability of the past few years might give you the idea that humanity developed its ecological consciousness only recently, it’s not completely correct. In reality, green tech got its start in the early 19th century.
Here’s a short overview of how we got to where we are today:
19th Century: Scientists began to notice the negative impacts of burning coal during the Industrial Revolution. In response, manufacturing plant owners altered their production processes to reduce soot and waste.
1930s: The US was hit with the devastating Dust Bowl of 1930 due to poor farming practices and the use of heavy equipment. In response, the government implemented The Soil Conservation Act of 1935 to control floods, prevent the destruction of reservoirs, and protect public health, among other things.
WW2: Over 400,000 volunteers gathered to collect metal, paper, rubber, and other materials to fuel the war effort.
Post-WW2: Scientists like Rachel Carson begin investigating and warning against the harmful impacts of chemical pesticides. At the same time, doctors worldwide started reporting on mysterious illnesses connected to nuclear radiation.
– – – The Beginning of the Ecological Movement – – –
1970s: Government bodies start to recognize the importance of protecting environmental resources. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 to enforce guidelines on pollution and waste. Coal scrubbers and other clean technologies originate from this point.
2000s: Climate policies saw further changes as the collective ecological consciousness grew. Noteworthy examples include the US Clean Air Act, the UN’s ban on drift net fishing, and Sweden’s carbon tax.
Today: Like our climate, GreenTech is the hot new thing. Ridesharing and bike/scooter-borrowing apps dominated Silicon Valley for years. IoT is helping us better measure our energy consumption and act ecologically. Good days are ahead.
What is the difference between GreenTech, CleanTech, and ClimateTech?
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they are clearly distinct. As mentioned above, GreenTech focuses on renewable energy and materials, while CleanTech refers to the resulting products and services that reduce energy consumption, waste, cost, and environmental impact.
Meanwhile, ClimateTech focuses specifically on human-induced climate change and finding ways to mitigate the production of greenhouse gasses. In that sense, technologies like water purification don’t fall under climate tech, while alternative energy sources do.
What are the main goals of GreenTech?
There are many desirable outcomes GreenTech leads to, but its 5 primary goals include:
Using renewable energy to mitigate the impact on the climate.
Finding new ways to fulfill our needs in accordance with the environment.
Using the resources we have at our disposal more efficiently.
Replacing existing technology with eco-friendly solutions.
Introducing new GreenTech solutions, growing their popularity, and creating jobs.
How does GreenTech achieve its goals?
Like environmentalism in general, GreenTech is a cumulative effort of multiple parties. Companies can contribute by incorporating financially, socially, and environmentally sustainable practices and methodologies into their operations, like carbon neutrality.
Individuals can contribute by supporting eco-friendly products and services, recycling, upcycling, and composting. Governments can fuel these efforts by passing so-called “green” laws and policies, incentivizing companies, and investing in things like solar-powered public transport. Finally, everyone can help by incorporating renewable energy sources into their everyday lives and operations.
What are some examples of GreenTech?
The answers you receive may vary depending on how deeply you want to view the topic. However, here are several GreenTech examples to better explain what we’re talking about:
Alternative energy sources: Include solar, wind, hydro, wave, and others. They are important in offsetting the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Sustainable construction: Includecomposite roofing shingles, bamboo floors, insulated concrete framing, etc. They insulate buildings to limit the need for heating and ventilation. They can also be manufactured in an eco-friendly way.
Green chemistry: They try to find alternatives to ecologically harmful substances via biodegradation, synthesis, catalysis, etc.
Green nanotechnology: It combines green chemistry and engineering. This industry seeks to manipulate materials at the micro and nano levels to create even more efficient means of production.
Eco-friendly software development: It focuses on developing software requiring fewer resources.
Electric cars: Includes Tesla, Rivian, BMW, and other manufacturers. Help limit the burning of fossil fuels for transport.
Sustainable/vertical agriculture: Helps maximize yield per space by requiring less land. It can be used to create useful green spaces even in cities.
Recycling: Primarily includes plastics, rubber, paper, and metal. Focuses on finding new ways to utilize existing resources instead of creating new ones.
Carbon capture: Captures and stores CO2 before it can enter the atmosphere and cause further global warming.
Self-sufficient buildings: These can produce their own energy without outside influence via photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and other forms of alt. energy.
Wastewater treatment and purification: Focuses on purifying contaminated water for drinking or other use. It also explores other possibilities to help maintain the planet’s dwindling water reservoirs.
LED lighting: Helps save electricity by requiring less electricity to run and lasts longer, leading to less waste.
Programmable thermostats: Allow homeowners to schedule heating and ventilation only for when they’re at home, saving energy and money.
Waste management: Finds new ways of disposing of waste that cannot be recycled to minimize landfills and their impacts.
Waste-to-energy and composting: Turns food-based and un-recyclable waste into energy by burning or intentionally rotting (composting).
Efficient batteries: Focuses on finding new ways of creating batteries that can hold more charge and last longer. They’re vital for the electric car industry.
Smart grid technology: Combines revolutionary sensors, communication, and control systems to strengthen the electrical grid’s resiliency and efficiency.
What is the cheapest form of green energy?
This is a widely disputed topic, even among the scientific community. Hydroelectric power, which uses water currents and turbines to generate electricity, was considered the cheapest option, costing just $0.05per kWh (kilowatt-hour).
However, a 2023 Executive Summary Report by the International Energy Agency disputes this claim. Their research suggests that solar PV and onshore wind power plants remain the most cost-effective options for most countries.
The elephant’s foot in the room: Nuclear energy
Moving on from disputed topics to controversial ones, we have to ask: “Is nuclear energy green energy?”. And the answer depends largely on who you ask.
Some people quickly point to several tragedies in nuclear history, particularly Chernobyl and Fukushima. However, the reality is that the cumulative death toll of these accidents is still far lower than the annual fatalities caused by fossil fuel polution.
Radioactive waste is another point against nuclear’s place among green energy alternatives. And for good reason, as it has to be stored for thousands of years before it can be safely disposed of.
Despite that, one can’t argue against the fact that fission is one of the most reliable and effective ways of producing power with essentially zero fossil fuel emissions. On top of that, nuclear power plants have experienced significant development since their notorious catastrophes, making them cheaper and safer.
Nevertheless, nuclear’s reputation has been thoroughly tarnished by these incidents. This was further aided by coal and petrol propaganda by fossil fuel giants, trying to hold onto their power. Consequently, it’s unlikely that nuclear energy will join the ranks of solar, wind, and hydro anytime soon.
What are the benefits of GreenTech?
There are many advantages to creating and supporting eco-friendly solutions, but the main ones include:
For the World:
Fewer, or ideally no, harmful substances are released into the natural world.
Growth in CleanTech, allowing the average consumer to do their part.
Lower to no risk of running out of resources for the world at large.
Slower climate change.
New employment opportunities.
For your company:
Saving money: GreenTech has a reputation for being prohibitively expensive, but that’s not completely true. Although initial investments may be high, say in alternative energy sources, they often result in long-term financial savings.
Higher efficiency: Committing to green technology requires you to reassess many of your internal operations. Consequently, companies often find more efficient solutions they did not think of before. Coupled with the improved morale from being eco-friendly, this often leads to better performance.
Boosted morale: Most people want to live in accordance with nature, knowing they’re helping and not hurting the environment. So, by deploying eco-friendly initiatives in your company, you can help motivate your employees to do better and improve their performance, as mentioned in the previous point.
Better reputation: Like your employees, customers also want to feel like they’re doing their part. Showing interest in helping the environment is sure to make people like you more, improve your brand image, and possibly even boost sales.
Higher productivity: By analyzing your operations for green tech opportunities, you can find inefficiencies you wouldn’t otherwise. Addressing these will allow your company to perform better and more ecologically than ever before.
Are there any challenges to GreenTech?
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Despite all the good that GreenTech can do, there are still several challenges to being environmentally friendly, especially in the short term. However, we believe humanity’s survival might be worth weathering most of these. GreenTech’s challenges include:
High initial investment in renewable energy sources, materials, and technologies.
It will take a long time until GreenTech is adopted on a wide scale.
The majority of GreenTech solutions still require further Research and Development.
Shortage of skilled workers.
Most countries still lack green policies.
GreenTech Facts & Stats
According to PWC, $87.5 billion was invested in the GreenTech industry throughout 2021, with the biggest investors being the US with $56.6 billion, Europe with $18.3 billion, and China with $9.0 billion.
The industries that enjoyed most of these investments include electric transport, renewable energy, green chemistry, green nanotechnology, sustainable construction, and eco-friendly software development.
5 GreenTech trends
But you may be wondering, what are some of the hottest technologies in GreenTech in 2023? Here are the 5 GreenTech trends to keep an eye on now and in the following years.
Low carbon construction: Traditional buildings and constructions account for 38% of all greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s no surprise people are looking for better solutions. Low-carbon buildings are designed to emit little to no carbon emissions over their lifespan, require minimal heating and cooling, and produce little waste.
To achieve this, low-carbon construction typically utilizes eco-friendly materials like bamboo and helps to produce its electricity via photovoltaic panels.
Carbon capture & storage: Limiting carbon release is important but can’t prevent the temperature increase by at least 1.5°C. We need to physically remove carbon from the environment to make a real difference. And that’s where carbon capture and storage comes into play.
This technology takes carbon from the atmosphere and uses it to make synthetic fuel. Currently, the possibilities are limited, but experts predict that the cost of this technology could be reduced by up to 6 times, making it much more viable.
Renewable energy storage: One challenge standing in the way of wide-scale renewable energy adoption is storage. Currently, we have no good way of keeping up with demand if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow for longer periods.
Companies like Aquion Energy, Malta, and Highview Power are trying to find an answer.
Hydrogen You may have heard whispers of hydrogen-powered cars succeeding the current green market leaders – battery-powered vehicles. Hydrogen produces no harmful emissions and is more efficient than combustion engines.
However, the technology continues to suffer from a fair few quirks. Nevertheless, experts predict that by the year 2050, it will power up to 400 million cars, 20 million buses, and 20% of passenger ships.
Upcycling Upcycling, also known as circular waste management, is the process of turning waste into new usable materials. The goal is to create a “circular economy” where no waste exists. Strides are being made in transforming waste into everything from fuel and fertilizer to clothes and bicycles.
How to become an eco-friendly company
Assuming you’re not part of a company working in one of the abovementioned industries, you may be wondering – how can you be eco-friendly and help better the world? To close this article, we’ll leave you with a few ideas to consider in the following years.
Track and reduce your carbon footprint: This may seem like a big step, but it couldn’t be easier to start. There are a plethora of solutions on the market that allow you to track your carbon footprint. Reducing it is as easy as exchanging your stacks of office paper for more efficient and eco-friendly digital forms.
Offset emissions: If you feel like you produce a lot of emissions, why not donate to a nature reservation or help plant some trees and shrubs? Commit to the cause, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that the world is greener thanks to your efforts.
Go zero-waste: Recycling is the name of the game. Say goodbye to single-use items, invest in some reusable office stationery, install a few more recycling bins in the halls, and you’ll feel the difference in no time.
Switch to alternate energy sources: This doesn’t mean you have to cover your office building in solar panels or build a windmill in the parking lot. Many energy providers offer the option of getting your electricity from fully renewable sources for a small fee.
Conduct a life-cycle assessment: A life-cycle assessment, or LCA, is a complete measurement of a product’s or service’s environmental impact throughout its lifetime. For this, you’ll have to consider everything from raw materials, energy, packaging, transport, and more.
Fund environmental projects: If your company’s possibilities of going green are limited, you can always mitigate your carbon footprint by donating to ecologically-friendly initiatives locally or worldwide. And if you’re eco-neutral, a few good investments can push you into eco-positive.
3 Examples of eco-friendly companies
So far, we’ve spoken a lot about theory, but there’s no better way to learn than from the examples of those who came before. In this section, we’ll look at three influential companies committed to going green. These include:
Ford Motors: Automotive companies tend to be some of the heaviest polluters on the market. But that’s not something Ford wanted to stand for, so it deployed its ten-part environmental policy.
This includes using sustainable fabrics in their car production, their Focus and Fiesta lines being up to 80% recyclable, and investing in fuel efficiency. Furthermore, Ford’s factories use geothermal cooling technologies.
Apple: To keep in line with its fruit-based branding, Apple has pushed to become an eco-friendly company. On its page, the manufacturer boasts of being carbon-neutral since 2020 and, in the same breath, promises its products to be the same by 2030.
Apple achieves this by utilizing renewable energy sources and recycled materials in their production, like aluminum, tungsten, and even plastic water bottles. The company’s M1 chip is supposed to reduce its carbon footprint by 34%, and its final assembly sites are verified as zero-waste.
Google: Google is an excellent example of how even a tech giant can contribute to a greener future. Not only does the company use renewable energy sources to fuel its processes, but also invests in activities like hosting farmers’ markets for its employees and “hiring” goats to trim their lawns.
In conclusion, going green does not only make business sense, but it makes human sense. Hopefully, this article’s given you everything you need, including motivation, to take the plunge and make a difference. Remember, every little part counts, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.
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