Envirotech innovations are changing the approach of professionals across all modern industries like agriculture, energy, water purification, and data science.
As we move toward an automated future, we have to consider everything that comes with our Industry 4.0. Most importantly, we need to ease an ever-growing population with limited resources and available land.
What are the top six envirotech innovations helping future-proof Earth cities?
1. Alternative Energy With Government Support
More and more people each year adopt non-traditional energy sources like solar or wind energy. In fact, the world’s solar power use jumped 50% last year thanks to changes in the U.S., Europe, and China.
Although helpful, the tide still needs to be turned on other practices. Alternative energy sources ease the stress of environmentally caustic practices such as fracking which may have contributed to the rise in earthquakes in the U.S.
Wastewater disposal is another chief contributor to detrimental environmental changes.
Both of these practices relate to the oil and gas industry and both increase earthquake frequency. So, along with being cleaner sources of energy, moving toward alternative energy sources can help reduce induced earthquakes, in theory.
Reducing Seismic Activity With Sustainable Energy
On top of that, you have all of the currently known benefits of renewable energy such as reducing carbon emissions. As mentioned, there is also a finite supply of oil left on this planet. Using renewable energy sources like wind and sunlight can future-proof Earth cities.
Government support is an integral part of this change.
The European Union has some of the most forward-thinking environmental policies in the world, with every member country increasing their efforts in developing renewable energy projects and production.
Salt mounds | Parcolnews.com
2. Water Purification and Desalination
Desalination is the perfect solution to always having fresh drinking water. You can strip salt and ocean brine, extracting only pure water. But, there’s one big obstacle: it costs 1 kWh or more of energy per cubic meter of seawater to make.
Due to the equipment and process, the monetary cost per cubic meter of desalinated water can be anywhere from $1 – $2 USD. This makes desalination a non-viable method for scalability moving forward for now.
But high-tech gizmos aren’t the only way to purify water in a modern world.
Going Low-Tech in an Automated World
University of Buffalo scientists resurrected a low-cost device dating back at least 2,000 years. You simply drape carbon-dipped paper into a V-shape as in the image above.
The device then uses sunlight — a nearly limitless resource — to produce clean water with higher efficiency.
For regions of Earth more resource-scarce or difficult to reach, this option scales the best. That’s why the scientists behind the invention founded the tech startup Sunny Clean Water.
Sometimes, a low-tech approach is just what you need for the future.
3. E-Waste Management and Recycling
Many people remain unfamiliar with the term “e-waste” despite the amount of it in the world.
A 2014 study showed that some of the worst e-waste offenders had up to 62.4 lbs. of waste per person. The inherent obsolescence of modern electronics contributes to this staggering number.
Just think of your smartphone: do you get the newest model every year? If so, you might keep your old model or give it to a friend.
But many people probably return it to a wireless service provider.
From there, it might end up in one of many landfills in countries like Ghana.
How Circular Economies Can Stem the E-Waste Tide
E-waste is so endemic within our society that it’s easy to forget how prevalent the issue is. Even small things like lithium-ion batteries from e-cigarettes can have a significant effect on your e-waste production. Combine that with defective appliances or simply outdated technology and you a have a recipe for a trash ball of Futurama-sized proportions.
Worse still, e-waste can create dangerous toxin leaks into soil and water.
Building toward circular economies can mitigate the detrimental effects of e-waste. Companies like Karma Recycling and nonprofits like RecycleForce lead the charge.
Karma Recycling buys old smartphones, wipes and refurbishes them. Then, they resell them with new warranties. RecycleForce combines environmental and social change to safely process old technology and provide job opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.
If humanity wants to future-proof itself, innovating e-waste envirotech is a major step.
4. Vertical Farming and Bioremediation
Startups like Plenty want to make vertical farming the new normal. Last year, we wrote about the company’s plans for expansions and how they hope to deliver big box prices for Whole Foods quality produce.
With the power of technology, vertical farms can grow up to 350 times more than conventional farms. But that doesn’t necessitate the elimination of traditional farms. It just offers another option for resource-poor or densely populated regions.
Traditional farming can also help restore tainted soil in places like Chernobyl and Fukushima.
In an article detailing 13 reasons why industrial hemp will be part of Industry 4.0, we outlined how hemp helps with phytoremediation. Hemp, one plant, helps to clean up soils for new plants by absorbing existing radiation.
Since hemp also helps aerate soil, it can improve traditional farming techniques and yield.
These envirotech options can benefit the environment and population with boosts to environmental consciousness efforts and food yield for increasing numbers.
5. Reduce Carbon Emissions With Electric Cars and More
As mentioned earlier, most prominent car manufacturers want to move away from oil-based cars. But creating zero-emission vehicles is just one step to reducing carbon emissions.
Consuming meat isn’t inherently bad, but “concentrated animal feeding operations” (CAFOs) create high emissions. The large amounts of methane adversely affect rivers and nearby water sources. Many also question the ethics of this method.
Sustainable and ethical farming practices can help reduce emissions alongside other initiatives already in place. But, so can consuming other forms of sustenance.
You might not think that envirotech encompasses food, but it definitely does. Specifically, synthetic meat and other foods are the envirotech that can help reduce carbon emissions.
While in development for many years now, synthetic food has become a totally viable option. Instead of going vegan or vegetarian to support sustainable and ethical farming practices, you could soon just go synthetic.
Though people balked at the idea of lab-grown meat for a long time, it’ll be hitting shops soon. In fact, 62% of Americans are more likely to give synthetic meat a shot.
6. Using the Power of Data to Curb Resource Abuse
Data Science can solve almost any problem you might encounter in today’s world. From helping you sleep better to knowing your target audience, we have massive amounts of insights at our fingertips to leverage at a moment’s notice.
It only makes sense that environmental science and envirotech leverage data, as well.
Apana remains one of the major instances of how data can help future-proof cities. California residents used Apana to curb wasteful water use during severe droughts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also joined the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS). The EPA wanted to leverage the power of data for several big projects still underway. Here are just three environmental projects which data science will help to solve:
- Stream-Catchment (StreamCat) – landscape metrics for 2.6-million streams to study stream and watershed conditions.
- Web-based Interspecies Correlation Estimation (Web-ICE) – a tool to estimate a species’ acute toxicity of a chemical in terms of another species’ known toxicity.
- EnviroAtlas – uses data to construct an “ecosystem goods and services” dataset for study.
Leveraging data along with the other envirotech listed in this article can help bolster the human race as we move into Industry 4.0 and beyond.
We live in a world that is rapidly changing and is not sustainable. Although change is happening slowly, conservation and environmental movements are always a game of inches. See what you can do to improve your local area; even if it’s something as small as recycling your e-cigarette batteries.