From dangerous carbon emissions to giant islands of discarded plastic floating across the Pacific, there is no denying that we humans have made quite the mess on our little planet. All is not lost, however, as with new technology comes new opportunities for us to do our part to ensure our world’s future. Whether it comes in the form of clean and renewable energy, natural and low-impact construction or farming, or something completely different and unexpected, here are 25 Green Technologies That Could Save Our Planet.
Clean and renewable, wind power is one sustainable energy source that has seen a lot of attention lately for it’s plausibility. While “small” windmills are inexpensive and can easily power a small community or augment a local power grid, the massive offshore wind turbines found along the continental shelf can harvest much more energy at the cost of increased construction and maintenance expenses.
A lot of people don’t think about it, but electronics can contain a lot of expensive, rare, or even dangerous materials among their inner workings. Before you throw out your old computer or cellphone, look into e-waste recycling opportunities near you; recycling electronic components reduces the need to mine up more rare minerals and cuts out the risk of toxic chemicals seeping into the earth.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell
A pollution free alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel cells are basically batteries that convert the chemical energy from combining hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. In the future, they could be used in the powering and heating of buildings or as fuel in cars. However, because they require pure hydrogen to function, mass production of fuel cells is still unreasonable until we have more reliable and efficient ways of harvesting hydrogen.
When most people hear of LED lights, the first thing that probably comes to their mind are those flashing colorful lights that you wrap around a Christmas tree. However, recent years and technological advancements have benefited the development of white LED’s, and new lights can provide the same level of illumination as any other light, all while using a fraction of the energy and lasting 25 to 50 times the lifespan of a regular incandescent bulb.
Tidal generators are massive underwater fans that generate energy using the ocean’s tides, and because water is 1000 times denser than air, their energy potential could be much higher than that of wind power. Unfortunately, tidal generators are still very expensive to build and maintain; however, as technologies become cheaper, they could soon become a viable option for providing green energy to coastal and island communities.
An incredibly simple way to combat global climate change, biochar is the mixing of charcoal, the untreated remains of burnt trees, into the soil. This solution of earth and carbon reduces the amount of methane and nitrous oxide naturally released by the soil, lowering the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The photovoltaic effect is the generation of an electrical current from direct sunlight and is how solar panels create electricity. Over recent years, photovoltaic systems have become much more efficient and inexpensive, leading to them becoming one of the most often used renewable energies in the world. Solar panels installed directly onto the roof of houses and can easily power a household with green energy, as well as saving money by reducing utility costs.
Similar to Lego blocks, these plastic bricks can be easily snapped together in less than a day, and in the future could provide cheap, insulated, and livable housing to third world and impoverished communities everywhere. As an added benefit, plastic bricks can be created from recycled plastic, making them a great way to decrease poverty while at the same time reducing the amount of waste in our oceans and landfills.
Although recent studies have shown that computers only make up about 2% of global carbon emissions, the rapidly growing number of CPU’s coupled with new technologies pushing existing ones to their limits means that number is expected to increase exponentially. Many companies are already in the process of making greener computers by designing them to be more energy efficient, using recycled parts, and utilizing cleaner manufacturing techniques.
With the global population booming and the amount of available farmland running out, humans are eventually going to need a new way to grow their fruits and vegetables. Vertical farms are vast indoor farms in which crops are grown on shelves in a controlled and automated environment. They are 100 times more efficient than regular farms, produce crops year round, and are completely organic due to their controlled environments and lack of pesticides.
Small Modular Reactors
Although nuclear power is often overlooked when it comes to clean energy generation, it remains one of the only electricity sources that doesn’t emit carbon. Nuclear power plants are too high risk and expensive to warrant much new construction. However, new developments in SMR’s or Small Modular Reactors could bring back nuclear power in the near future. SMR’s are safer than full sized reactors because of more efficient cooling and decreased staffers, and with higher fuel burn up rates, SMR’s can cut waste productions in half or more.
Biodiesel is a diesel fuel replacement created from alcohol-treated vegetable oil or animal fats. It can be used in any standard diesel engine and greatly reduces a vehicle’s carbon and environmental impacts. Although its only popular in few households in America, many commercially owned trucks, buses, and even trains benefit from biodiesel fuel.
If you’re enjoying this list, check out 25 Cleanest Cities In The World.
Despite being literal pond slime, algae are surprisingly versatile and have a number of uses including biofuel, fertilizer, and even foods. Many cultures spanning the world include seaweed in their diets; however, recent studies have found that some types of algae can be processed into an oil that not only boasts many health benefits but also can serve as a vegan and more environmentally conscious substitute for eggs, butters, and fats.
Composting toilets are an alternative type of toilet that composts human waste similar to food. Because they are technically a type of dry-toilet, composting toilets greatly reduce the amount of water used by a household and are viable options to bring clean and efficient toilets to disadvantaged communities without reliable plumbing. For the truly brave, the compost can even be used as a nutrient rich fertilizer for trees and crops.
Using hundreds of large mirrors that track the sun’s position, solar power towers reflect beams of high-intensity sunlight at the the top of a receiver tower. The focused light can be used to heat fluids with high heat capacities, such as molten salt, that can then be used to boil water to turn a steam turbine. Unlike other solar energy generators like photovoltaics, solar power towers can generate electricity long after the sun has gone down. Unfortunately, they often pose a threat to wildlife such as migratory birds and bats.
Different from tidal energy, wave energy is a form of electrical energy generated from the rise and fall of ocean swells. Although wave energy has only seen minimal usage so far, the EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) estimates the recoverable wave energy resource surrounding the United States to be about 1,170 terawatt hours each year, nearly a third of the annual energy use in the US.
Eco-friendly concrete is concrete that contains titanium dioxide, a substance that can absorb and destroy smog, pollution, and other air impurities from out if its surroundings. Already seeing use in Holland, eco-friendly concretes can be used in roads, buildings, or anywhere else regular concrete could be used. As an added bonus, it is also self-cleansing, meaning it will naturally rid itself of many stains or dark splotches.
The successor to nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries, lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries typically found in cellphones and electronics. Li-ion batteries are a game changer in the manufacturing of new technologies such as electric cars because they are smaller, lighter, and safer than the alternatives.
Landfills can be massive, and their constant release of methane gas contributes highly to the accumulation of greenhouse gasses. Many Northern European countries, however, have found a different destination for their trash in Waste-to-Energy plants. By burning garbage waste instead of fossil fuels these plants can cleanly power entire cities on trash alone, all while cutting back on landfill waste.
Desalination is the process of removing salt and other minerals from water to make it safe for human consumption. Already seeing use in places such as the Middle East, desalination plants can regularly convert ocean water into something suitable for drinking or farm irrigation, providing many opportunities to disadvantaged communities with little access to fresh water. In the United States, desalinated ocean water could be provided to over 300,000 households using the same amount of energy as a jet airplane at cruising altitude.
Cars and trucks contribute greatly to global warming, making up approximately 1/5th of greenhouse gasses worldwide. In 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced he would make all of Tesla’s electric car patents open source to boost innovation and development of electric transportation. As electric cars have become more conventional and less expensive, they have slowly but surely gained a market all over the world and are expected to become the norm within the next decade or two.
Many human burial practices can have adverse effects on Earth’s ecosystems by releasing harmful chemicals that can contaminate the earth, water, and air. New technologies, however, have offered many cemeteries and funeral homes a chance to go green through biodegradable caskets, non-chemical embalming, and carbon-offset cremations.
Although it is still purely hypothetical, cold fusion is a nuclear reaction occurring at or near room temperature. Cold fusion generators would not produce harmful radiation or toxic waste, and because they generate electricity using hydrogen, they could be a viable energy source anywhere water was available as fuel. Despite still being far out of reach of current human attainability, a stable cold fusion generator could lead to a cheap and clean source of energy, as well as revolutionize the world of energy generation.
While cold fusion is still hypothetical, there have been several predictions for technology throughout the years. Check out 25 Cleanest Cities In The World.
Mycelium is the lichen or root-like fungus that grows in moist soil or decomposing plant matter, and it is also the source of one of the most surprising construction materials to date. Replacing the formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) in particleboard, mycelium can effectively “grow” a completely green building material that can be used in furniture and even houses. It can also be used to create a biodegradable foam useful in the packaging and shipping of fragile objects.
Although still far from being used on a widespread or commercial scale, artificial photosynthesis has caught the attention of scientists around the world with its wide range of scientific and technological capabilities. Although the current goal is to create a system that converts water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into a completely clean chemical fuel that could create energy or power the aforementioned hydrogen fuel cells, artificial photosynthesis could also be used to combat global warming by reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
Photos: 24. CODIGO82/wikimedia commons, 22. Geoffrey.landis at English Wikipedia, 21. Fundy/wikimedia commons, 19. Activ Solar via Flickr, 18. Arto Alanenpaa/wikimedia commons, 17. Bruno Cordioli via Flickr, 16. Valcenteu/wikimedia commons, 15. NuScale/wikimedia commons, 13. Toby Hudson/wikimedia commons, 12. Stranman84/wikimedia commons, 11. afloresm via Flickr, 10. Carnegie Wave Energy Limited/wikimedia commons, 8. Claus Ableiter/wikimedia commons, 7. Norbert Nagel/wikimedia commons, 6. James Grellier/wikimedia commons, 5. Jusdafax/wikimedia commons, 4. Bob Ford via geographic.org.uk, 3. Theresa Knott/wikimedia commons, 2. mycobond via Flickr