We are living in a world where population growth is putting a serious strain on the wellbeing of our planet. The last two centuries have seen a mind-boggling sevenfold increase in global population, and with it an exponential growth in our food and energy needs. Pollution, global warming, deforestation and the ever increasing depletion of non-renewable resources are just a few of the major adverse effects of human activity. To preserve our planet and leave a liveable world to future generations, there is a palpable need for a paradigm shift towards sustainability and greener technologies. Luckily, scientists around the world are working tirelessly on ways to lower our carbon footprint, from sustainable energy to green transportation and sustainable farming methods. The following is a list of inventions and technologies that can change the world for the better.
Photo Credit: Gina Collecchia
An exponentially growing global population is putting a serious strain on food production, and modern agricultural methods deplete the soil and result in major deforestation. With arable land becoming scarce and food demand rising, vertical farming methods are becoming a viable alternative. The idea is to build upwards, and thus increase food production per unit area. Singapore is investing heavily in vertical farming methods, and already has the world’s first purpose built vertical farm that produces half a ton of vegetables every day. Although these farms have a high initial cost, once they are constructed they require minimum maintenance, and in effect pay for themselves. Vertical farms of the future will be designed to optimise food production, and provide plants with the best possible conditions to grow and thrive. Irrigation and monitoring systems will be automated, and even the light can be controlled so as to only produce specific wavelengths depending on what is being grown. Farming solutions do not have to be ultra-high tech, however. Communities in urban areas are coming together and founding community gardens. New York City plans to reclaim vacant lots for the purposes of urban agriculture, giving people access to locally grown, organic produce.
The invention of the automobile has given people an almost unlimited mobility and the convenience of fast and comfortable transportation. On the other hand, internal combustion engines are responsible for air and soil pollution, as well as the depletion of world oil reserves. The US alone burns nearly 4000 million gallons of gas every single day. In China, the 14 largest cities are responsible for almost half a million cases of respiratory illness per year.
The dream of an electric car is as old as the petroleum powered automobile, but it is only in recent years that it is becoming a reality. Electric cars are rapidly catching up to their gas guzzling cousins, both in performance and affordability. The Tesla Model S, for example, has a range of about 280 mile on a single charge, and a relatively affordable starting price of $50,000. Other manufacturers are incorporating electric engines into their cars, creating petroleum/ electric hybrids. Electric cars, however, still have a ways to go before they become the primary means of transportation. Whilst at-home charging stations are readily available for the owners of electric cars, we are still far from a widespread public infrastructure for charging e-vehicles. This makes long trips difficult, and dissuades car buyers from going electric.
Photo Credit: Kevin Zolkiewicz
When it comes to getting around town or taking short trips, nothing beats the bicycle in terms of carbon footprint. A bicycle produces no emissions, does not contribute to noise pollution or traffic jams, needs no refilling or charging, and even helps you to stay fit. This has not been lost on the municipal governments of many of the world’s greatest cities. Bike share programs are becoming a widespread and popular means of transportation in the world’s great capitals such as London, Paris and Washington leading the way. The bike share system allows you to check out a bike for a small fee in one part of the city and leave it in another at no charge. Since 2007, the idea has taken off all around the world, with massive programs Asia. Hangzhou in China has an impressive fleet of 65,000 public bikes that have already put a dent in the city’s infamous smog and pollution levels.
The world we live in has rightly been characterised as a “throwaway society”, with the average person producing over 2kg of trash every day. With the average American throwing away roughly 40% of their food, over one hundred cities in the US have launched composting programs in an attempt to lighten the load of bulging landfills. San Francisco implemented its visionary curb-side composting program fifteen years ago. With over 600 tons of compost collected daily, Frisco is amongst the most eco conscious cities in the world. According to the EPA, of the 250 million tons of trash created in America, 34 percent goes into recycling or composting programs.
Organic trash is just the tip of the iceberg, as rapid technological progress is making electronic devices obsolete in an ever shorter timeframe. To combat technological pollution, many cities are implementing eco ATMs, where you can deposit your old phone and get some money for it. By doing so, you are ensuring that rare and precious metals that are present in every mobile device are recycled and repurposed without polluting the landscape.
While human activity has, and continues to do harm to the planet, there are many inventions and technologies that can help us to lower our carbon footprint and preserve the environment. With the support of governments and the population at large, many projects have already proved to be both eco-friendly and economically efficient. While non-renewable energy sources and wasteful practices are still the norm in most of the world, there is a palpable shift in consciousness towards the renewable and sustainable.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!