Sustainable technology is a massive, complex issue. Reversing years of environmental damage won’t be easy, but thanks to technology, it’s not impossible either. New technology is emerging all the time to help the world reduce its emissions, address pollution and protect the environment. Here’s a look at five of these technologies that are changing the world for the better.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
One of the most important pieces of sustainable technology today is renewable energy. Moving away from fossil fuels is a massive part of the fight against climate change, so renewables like wind and solar are essential. They have already made impressive strides as well.
Renewables now produce 29% of all electricity globally, and their growth shows no signs of slowing. As technology improves, these systems are becoming more efficient and affordable, helping them grow even faster. Since renewables allow people to produce their own electricity, they can even be cheaper than fossil fuels in some situations.
New renewable technologies like solar glass, which allows people to generate electricity from windows, make green energy even more accessible. While fossil fuels may still make up the majority of electricity today, renewables may take over before too long.
It’s impossible to talk about sustainable technology and not mention electric vehicles (EVs). While electric vehicles were once a niche market, companies like Tesla have made them a common sight on the road today. Many major automakers now make electric cars, and they’re only getting cheaper and more efficient.
The benefits of EVs go beyond sustainability. Since they have fewer moving parts, they require less maintenance and can accelerate much faster and deliver more torque than traditional vehicles. Electric motors also take up less space than combustion engines, so electric vehicles offer more cargo space than your average car.
While most electric vehicles you see on the road today are passenger cars, this technology is expanding. Long-haul electric trucks are beginning to be used, and some companies are researching ways to electrify airplanes.
Hydrogen fuel cells are a less common but equally exciting piece of sustainable technology. These devices use the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy without harmful emissions. Some electric vehicles use fuel cells, giving them a range of up to 600 miles in some cases, but vehicles are just one of the many use cases for hydrogen power.
Hydrogen gas can hold a massive amount of energy for its weight, making it ideal for energy storage. Power companies can convert unused energy into hydrogen, then use fuel cells to turn it back into electricity when needed. This provides a much more efficient and long-lasting means of storage than batteries.
This storage can be crucial for renewables. Since wind and solar do not produce electricity on demand, they must store it to avoid wasting energy. Fuel cells can provide the reliable and efficient storage they need, helping to make renewables more practical.
Another impressive piece of sustainable technology is gene editing. Scientists can now modify genes to give organisms certain characteristics, which is particularly useful in agriculture. Genetically modified crops can feed more people while consuming fewer resources, helping to reduce the significant environmental impact of agriculture.
Agriculture accounts for 70% of fresh water consumption and chemical fertilizers can seep into the surrounding environment and endanger wildlife. Gene editing technology can help by creating crops that require less water and even self-fertilize. As more farms use these bioengineered plants, they won’t have to use as much water or fertilizer.
Gene editing can also help make plants more resilient to pests, reducing the need for harmful pesticides. Similarly, it can improve crop yields and help farms feed more people without taking up more land. These improvements will be essential as the population grows but resources shrink.
You’re probably familiar with 3D printing by now, but you might not see it as an environmental technology. While not directly related to the environment, it has several sustainability advantages. Most importantly, it is much more efficient than traditional production methods.
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is more energy efficient than most conventional methods, reducing carbon emissions from electricity. Since it adds material instead of cutting it, it’s also more resource efficient. Companies can use it to produce the same products without wasting as much material and power.
Additive manufacturing can even print buildings using environmentally friendly concrete alternatives. These massive printers can help construct buildings in much less time, reducing the emissions of the construction industry. If they run on renewable energy, they can even achieve zero emissions.
While some technologies have negatively impacted the environment, technology also offers solutions. If the world hopes to reverse climate change and create a sustainable future, it will need to take advantage of new technologies. As research into these technologies continues, more solutions and innovations will emerge, leading to exponential improvements.
These five technologies are just one example of the ways new technology is changing the world. Many are also in their early stages, so their impact will only grow from here. Soon, this sustainable technology could change everyday life forever.
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Last updated on July 9, 2022.