Green technology is growing faster and faster with each passing year. From new fuel technologies that power our cars to innovative uses for producing food, green technology may be the most important routes to solving our environmental problems.
Green Energy Solutions
Green technology is perhaps most evident when it comes to solving energy problems. Clean Edge’s Clean Energy Trends 2012 report found that money invested in biofuels, wind power and solar power all increased dramatically over the last few years. (However, these numbers can be a little misleading, since production costs for biofuels also increased.) The report notes that, “Together, we project these three benchmark technologies, which totaled $188.1 billion in 2010 and grew 31 percent to $246.1 billion in 2011, to grow to $385.8 billion over the next decade.” The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 from the Frankfurt School – United Nations Environment Programme Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance found similar figures, noting that global investment in renewable energy sources grew 17% in 2011. Falling technology costs, particularly in the realm of solar power and wind energies, have brought these solutions to the forefront in 2012. Solar cells in particular are finally about to become affordable for everyday people.
Digital Home Energy Management
In addition to rapidly increasing efficiency improvements in terms of household appliances and electronics, we are starting to see innovative uses of digital technologies to reduce energy uses at home. For example, you can now manage your household’s energy usage through your smart phone. And you can use any Android phone or tablet to control the LED light bulbs developed by Google and Lightning Science Group.
Many offices are getting on the green bandwagon this year by embracing telecommunications, cloud computing and going paperless. It’s becoming more and more common for companies to allow employees to forgo wasteful commutes and work remotely. Offices are also embracing virtualization by getting rid of their physical servers in favor of virtual ones. (These changes also have a very clear added benefit: saving companies money!)
Lighter, More Efficient Cars
Now, there are plenty of choices for more fuel-efficient vehicles. From electric cars to hybrids to alternative fuels like diesel or biodiesel, consumers have their pick of environmentally-friendly options. Carmakers are also experimenting with new kinds of construction materials, like carbon fiber reinforced plastics, to reduce weight and increase efficiency. In addition, more cars are including fuel-efficient features like low-rolling-resistance tires and automatic stop-start systems.
After energy, water is probably the arena that’s getting the most attention this year. Aging sewer infrastructures and excess storm water issues are plaguing older cities. New technologies are being employed to absorb and filter storm water, and to design buildings and streetscapes that mitigate this problem with green roofs, underground tree trenches and rain gardens. Meanwhile, other parts of the world are dealing with not enough water – and scientists are hard at work developing new water purification and desalination processes that will help make more of our water potable.
Advances in Food Production
Our current food production and distribution system is not only wasteful, it is insufficient for feeding the world. Green tech solutions are addressing gaps in our food system through innovative solutions vertical farming (vegetables grown along the sides of buildings, including skyscrapers) and in vitro meat (meat developed in laboratories instead of on feeding lots).
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