Green technology solutions are no longer new concepts. In fact, many companies and households already use green tech products. However, only a few per cent of the world uses these technologies, making its impact lower. People should start to use green tech solutions today to make a significant change in the future. Among these green tech solutions, here are some that more people worldwide should be using, from electric scooters to urban vertical farming.
Cars, buses, and other fuel-powered vehicles have long contributed to the issue of greenhouse gas and global warming. In fact, transportation accounts for a fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. However, electric vehicles aim to resolve this by reducing harmful emissions and slowly cleaning the air in the long run. An example of a popular electric vehicle is electric scooter technology which is gaining attention because of its convenience and accessibility. However, are electric scooters eco-friendly? How do electric vehicles help the environment?
Since electric vehicles don’t need fuel, it does not emit any harmful gases, reducing carbon emissions present in the air. Moreover, most electric vehicles are manufactured through eco-friendly processes and materials. This further reduces the product’s environmental impact for its lifecycle. For example, the electric car Nissan Leaf is partly made of old car parts, plastic bags, and water bottles. Owners with electric vehicles can also reduce their impact by charging their vehicles using renewable energy such as solar and wind power.
Adopting more electric vehicles, like eco electric scooters, will move global transportation into a more sustainable future.
Many companies, especially huge tech brands, are moving files and data from paper to cloud. Cloud-based storage solutions are an increasingly popular green tech solution because of its space and cost-saving benefits. It eliminates the need to use more equipment in the office, reducing energy consumption as well. In fact, a report says that using more cloud storage and processes could reduce electricity consumption by 25 to 45%.
Investing in cloud storage solutions and processes also make it easier for people to share information. It promotes the idea of paperless offices, reducing paper waste and the need to cut down trees. Moreover, it supports remote work, reducing the need to commute every day to work and carbon emissions from vehicles.
Lastly, eliminating hardware reduces the opportunity for computer parts to end up in landfills. In the US, only 27% of the 2 million tons of e-waste could be recycled. This leaves a significant amount of computer parts that could pollute the land and sea.
If most businesses move their data and processes to the cloud, small to large businesses can reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. Altogether, this leaves a huge positive impact on the environment.
Green energy sources
Although many countries are shifting toward renewable sources of energy, 84% of the world still primarily use fossil fuels according to a 2019 study. People have used fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, it has caused large amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollution. These byproducts not only harm the environment but also pose health problems for people.
To reduce harmful emissions and impacts on the environment, renewable energy will be a key player. These energies include:
People should rapidly change into these energy sources before it’s too late.
Vertical farming promotes the idea of growing plants or produce in layers stacked vertically. It offers farmers and city dwellers sustainable farming in limited space. One of its greatest benefits is that it uses 90% less water because of its hydroponic growing process. As a result, it also needs fewer nutrients and fertilisers. Moreover, the used water can be recycled or reused since it’s clean. This further minimises waste and reduces the cost of farming.
Aside from this, it reduces the need for tractors or farming equipment, which likely use fossil fuels to run. As a result, it helps reduce harmful emissions that come from traditional farming methods. Moreover, it helps conserve biodiversity since there’s no need to convert acres of land for farming.
For city dwellers, vertical farming enables people living in apartments to grow their own produce indoors or on balconies. Having more plants in cities can help convert carbon emissions from vehicles into clean air. In fact, some biomimicry designs include vertical gardens into its design such as Singapores Gardens by the Bay.
Shift to a green future
While these green tech solutions help reduce waste and pollution, this is not enough. People also need to reduce plastic use and lessen their energy consumption from fossil fuels to reduce our environmental impact. Although green solutions are generally expensive, people should realise that these technologies are an investment in their own life and the future generations’. From recycling to using eco-friendly electric scooters, let’s do our part to save the environment.
The lungs of the Earth.
So poignant as a virus that causes humans to experience deathly shortness of breath sweeps the world. Yet, as I write this at 10:30am, a deforestation counter shows that over 33 000 hectares of forest have been cut or burned across the world today.
Forests are incredibly important to preserve as a means to slow climate change, for many more reasons than air quality. Preserving forests tackles climate change, global warming, the biodiversity crisis, desertification and drought, air and water pollution.
Trees ‘breathe’ out the oxygen that we breathe in, providing much of the oxygen that most organisms on Earth need for survival. They also improve the quality of the air by absorbing polluting gases through their leaves. A 2010 estimate stated that trees and forests removed 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution in the United States – monetising the human health effects to be worth $6.8bn. Besides reducing pollution, forests and urban trees also balance air temperature – cooling cities and reducing the need for fossil fuel powered temperature-control devices and improving day-to-day quality of life for humans, animals and insects.
Effortless Earth guardians: trees absorb the all-important Carbon Dioxide simply by breathing; they are the second-largest carbon stores on Earth, after the oceans. Trees store this carbon in their trunks as a structural component and when they die and rot, it becomes new soil. Beautiful carbon sequestration. A quarter of a trillion tonnes of carbon is stored in the biomass of the world’s tropical forests alone. Cutting and burning of these forests releases large amounts of carbon back into the air, exasperating the greenhouse effect that is causing Earth to warm at an alarming rate - with the clearing of tropical forests contributing about 20% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
It is well known that forests create rain locally through evaporation and transpiration but, a Russian physicist has claimed that forests also create rain in areas far from where they are situated as well as creating the wind that carries the rain clouds. The theory states that coastal forests create wind that pulls moisture off the ocean, adding it to their own evaporation clouds and sending it to form rain inland. Therefore, the loss of these forests would cut off inland water supply – creating and spreading deserts. “Forests are complex self-sustaining rainmaking systems, and the major driver of atmospheric circulation on Earth,” Anastassia Makarieva says. Atmospheric jets or ‘flying rivers’ send water from huge forests like the Amazon, to inland areas - where they are stopped by mountains and fall as life-giving rain. The Amazon flying river is thought to carry as much water as the more visible, terrestrial river below it.
Yet, 11,088 sq km of Amazon rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020.
Besides controlling weather across the globe, forests also stabilise land masses – preventing erosion, they filter water and slow it down – preventing flooding, indigenous and old-growth forests stop fires and slow down winds close to the land, whilst providing important habitat, food and medicine for people, animals, insects, fungi and smaller plants.
80% of Earth’s land-based biodiversity is housed in forests, as well as the 60 million indigenous people that call them home. Deforestation is seen as one of the main reasons for us entering the Sixth Mass Extinction, and we may be reaching a ‘tipping point’ where forests begin to decline on their own due to the sheer mass of human-led destruction that has already occurred.
Forests are incredibly important for a myriad of reasons and it is up to each of us to protect them. As the animal agriculture industry (particularly cattle and soy to feed cattle) is one of the leading contributors to deforestation, a huge step towards slowing deforestation would be for each consumer to switch to a plant-based diet. Other actions including: choosing sustainable palm oil, ensuring that you can trace the origins of everything you buy – especially coffee, chocolate and wood products – buying local, planting trees in our own spaces and volunteering for tree planting organisations, choosing to use platforms (like Ecosia) and support companies that care about forests and are active, challenging destructive companies and government policies.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-Dr. Suess, The Lorax
Written By: Kelly Steenhuisen
Exotic and invasive plant species are, unfortunately, very popular in home gardens and decorative gardens around public spaces. Studies have shown that between 50% and 70% of invasive and non-native plant species were purposefully taken to their new homes by the horticultural trade.
The impact of invasive plant species is often overlooked as many are prized for their beauty, food production and ability to create a certain ‘feel’ in a space. However, native plant species are just as, if not more, beneficial and don’t come with the negative environmental impact as a side effect.
Invasive and non-native plants species out-compete and, therefore, reduce the population of indigenous and endemic species – reducing food and habitat availability for insects, birds and animals that rely on those plants for survival. This is causing a huge decline in insect species across the planet with Germany reporting a 76% decline in the biomass of flying insects over the past 27 years.
The mass insect decline has a myriad of knock-on effects in the ecosystem, including a collateral insect-eating bird population decline which will further exacerbate the food-chain domino effect.
Invasive species alter natural environments by affecting light and temperature, as well as altering risk and frequency of fires, the water table, and nutrient cycling. Non-native species change the micro-organisms in soils around them, in turn affecting the ability of native species to access soil nutrients.
Unimaginable amounts of non-native species have been introduced to new areas by colonisation, agriculture, forestry and for various reasons by home gardeners.
Tree plantations of non-native species almost always spread into the surrounding natural spaces - altering the ecosystem, using up available water, and creating fire risk. This example was clearly illustrated in Knysna, South Africa, where pine plantations have leaked into the natural fynbos vegetation. This caused massive, extremely hot fires to decimate the area in 2017 – burning down hundreds of houses, killing countless animals and taking out 5000 hectares of plantations. Pine trees and dry conditions caused the fire to burn hotter and faster than indigenous trees ever could. Residents noted that when the fires reached the indigenous forest, they very quickly fizzled out.
The introduction of invasive and non-native plant species often brings along potentially invasive insects as eggs or live specimens. These insects often die out due to the change in climate or lack of food, however, they are just as likely to become a problem. An example of this is the Chinese Harlequin ladybug that is considered an invasive species in Europe, North America and South Africa. It is more aggressive than most native ladybirds and, therefore, out-competes them by consuming all available food resources and by sheer numbers. Native ladybirds and all the necessary food-chain effects linked to them are then reduced or eradicated.
With biodiversity receiving a well-deserved spotlight for its importance in maintaining the health of animals and humans, keeping wild species alive, and combating climate change, we must acknowledge the effects of our home gardens. Spaces with the potential to become diverse sanctuaries for struggling plant, insect and small animal species are instead filled with common, non-native flowers and lawn grass – creating ‘food deserts’ for insects, birds and animals alike.
American entomologist, Douglas Tallamy, has stated that American homeowners could create a “Homegrown National Park” larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite and 11 other famous national parks combined just by converting half of their lawns into diverse, indigenous plant sanctuaries.
The power lies with us, in numerous small actions. Planting up verges, lawns, garden edges, park edges, street divisions and public space gardens with diverse, native plant species can and will have a massive impact on our biodiversity crisis and the global insect decline.
Written By: Kelly Steenhuisen