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 tech 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 significant pieces of sustainable tech 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 power are essential. They’ve already made impressive strides, too.
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 let people generate their own electricity, they can be even cheaper than fossil fuels in some situations.
New renewable technologies like solar glass, which lets people generate electricity from windows, make green power even more accessible. While fossil fuels may still account for most electricity today, renewables could take over before too long.
It’s impossible to talk about sustainable technology and not mention electric vehicles (EVs). While EVs were once a niche market, companies like Tesla have made them a common sight on roads today. Many major automakers now make electric cars, and they’re only becoming cheaper and more efficient.
EVs’ advantages go beyond sustainability, too. Since they have fewer moving parts, they require less maintenance and they can accelerate much faster and deliver more torque than traditional vehicles. Electric motors also take up less space than combustion engines, so EVs offer more cargo space than your average car.
While most EVs you see on the road today are passenger cars, this technology is expanding. Electric long-haul trucks are starting to see use, and several 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 power without harmful emissions. Some EVs use fuel cells, giving them ranges of up to 600 miles in some cases, but vehicles are just one of 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 power to hydrogen, then use fuel cells to turn it back into electricity when needed. This provides a far more efficient and long-term storage medium than batteries.
This storage could prove crucial for renewables. Since wind and solar power don’t produce electricity on demand, they need to store it to avoid wasting energy. Fuel cells could provide the reliable, efficient storage they need, helping make renewables more practical.
Another impressive piece of sustainable technology is gene editing. Scientists can now edit genes to give organisms certain characteristics, which is particularly helpful in agriculture. Genetically engineered crops can feed more people while consuming fewer resources, helping reduce farming’s considerable environmental impact.
Agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater 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 may not see it as an environmental technology. While it’s not directly related to the environment, it has several sustainability advantages. Most notably, it’s far more efficient than traditional production methods.
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is more energy-efficient than most conventional methods, reducing related carbon emissions from electricity. Since it adds material instead of cutting it away, 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 eco-friendly concrete alternatives. These massive printers can help construct buildings in far less time, reducing the construction industry’s emissions. If they run on renewable power, they can even achieve zero emissions.
While some technologies have negatively impacted the environment, tech also provides solutions. If the world hopes to reverse climate change and create a sustainable future, it’ll need to capitalize on new technologies. As research into these technologies continues, more solutions and innovations will emerge, leading to exponential improvements.
These five technologies are just a sample of the ways new tech is changing the world. Many of these are still in their early stages, too, so their impact will only grow from here. Before long, this sustainable technology could forever change everyday life.