Updated: Sep 18, 2021
As we know, the current state of our planet is less than ideal. Between the climate crisis, rising CO2 emissions and air pollution from cities and factories, there has never been a better time for a technological revolution. Unfortunately, while many of us want to reduce our carbon footprint and clean the air in our cities, we are unaware of any eco-friendly, sustainable alternatives to our current modes of living. Luckily, this won’t be the case for long. Green technology is a movement that aims to create sustainable alternatives for environmentally harmful materials, processes and products. However, to create alternatives is not enough. We need to make sure these sustainable alternatives become the norm in order to heal our planet and create more resourceful and efficient societies. As more countries and individuals realize the importance of investing in sustainability, the green technology market has grown steadily. In the last eight years alone, the green technology market has achieved a growth rate of 24.3 percent, and is expected to be valued at $48.36 billion by 2027.
Clearly, the principles behind the green technology movement are aligned with those of the minimalist movement. Both place great value in connecting with nature and mindfulness. That being said, when it comes to innovative technology, many of us think that this means we have to have the latest model or pay absurd amounts of money. Fortunately, adopting green technology does not necessarily mean having to go out and purchase a whole slew of new products. In fact, while there are many green technologies that can be purchased, some of these technologies can be made ourselves using household items and a bit of elbow grease. So, whether you’re building your own tiny green home, doing an eco-friendly renovation, or simply looking to adopt some green practices into your minimalist lifestyle, look no further! Here are six green technologies that could help save the future.
Starting From Scratch?
As we know, the climate crisis is one that affects existing and future generations. With this in mind, many minimalists and aspiring homeowners are looking for new, sustainable technologies that can replace the environmentally ignorant luxuries we have become accustomed to. If this is the case, here are only a few of the many opportunities to invest in green technologies.
Photo courtesy of Parans
Lighting is one of the biggest energy sucks in households and cities. While LED lights do offer a more energy efficient solution, there is another green tech innovation that can almost zero out energy consumption during the daytime. Parans, a Swedish technology company, have developed a way to passively illuminate buildings using natural sunlight. Sun collectors are placed on the roof and are able to follow the sun as it moves. The captured sunlight then moves through the attached fibre optic cables into the building. This method, known as Solar Lighting, is able to illuminate up to 30 floors, even those underground. While this may not be practical for tiny homes, it could be a sustainable investment for multi-level homes and businesses. However, an artificial lighting system would still be necessary for light in the evening. Regardless, it is always a good idea to incorporate natural sunlight into a home as it has been proven to improve our mood and help balance our levels of cortisol, melatonin and vitamin D.
If Solar Lighting isn’t quite the right fit for you, there are plenty of other sustainable energy options. One of the most popular alternative power sources is solar energy. Solar energy converts the sunlight absorbed into panels into electric energy which can power an entire home. Solar energy has become one of the most popular green technologies for many reasons. Once installed, the system is fairly low maintenance. It may require an occasional cleaning, but even this can be accounted for based on the positioning of the panels. Additionally, most solar panels have a low cost of production paired with a long life cycle, typically around twenty-five years, which would make it a worthwhile investment. Last but certainly not least, is the fact that solar energy will reduce your energy bill, secure the long-term cost of energy and produce no pollution in operation. This is what’s commonly known as a win-win scenario.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Cars
Photo courtesy of BMW
Despite being the most abundant resource in the universe, hydrogen isn’t typically thought of as a source for renewable energy. However, hydrogen fuelled cars are making a name for themselves in the automotive industry. One of the main differences between traditional battery-powered electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, is that the hydrogen fuelled cars produce the electricity themselves whereas traditional electric vehicle batteries need to be charged by an external power-source. Utilizing the electrical energy created by the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to power the battery and engine, the only exhaust gas produced by hydrogen cars is water vapor. Obviously, this is a much more sustainable alternative to gas-fuelled cars, but how does it measure up to traditional electric vehicles? Some may say hydrogen cars are superior, since most traditional electric cars use lithium-ion batteries which require mining for materials, which is typically done using unfair work conditions and significant labour violations. However, others may argue that hydrogen also needs to be extracted from the earth, and that it is easier to set up charging stations than to set up hydrogen refuelling stations. The truth is there is no perfect option when it comes to sustainable cars. Innovation requires challenge. In the meantime, it’s important to support sustainable energy alternatives whenever possible.
For some of us, installing solar panels or buying a new car isn’t something we can feasibly do, and our ‘tiny living’ takes the form of tiny apartments with big rent prices. For those of us who are trying to adopt more green technologies and practices into our everyday lives, there are so many options that don’t require mountains of disposable income.
Photo courtesy of MyDomaine
Plant walls are a wonderful wait to display plants while saving space, but still reaping all the benefits from our green friends. Plant walls can come in a myriad of shapes, forms, and containers. There are thousands of DIY projects to build your own plant wall across the internet, or there are also new technological innovations like Florafelt, which are specially designed to house a wall garden. Essentially, the defining factor of a plant wall is just a vertical arrangement of plants, which can be very functional for smaller spaces. As long as the plants can be watered and drained properly in their positions, there is no reason to not have a plant wall. In fact, from both environmental and minimalist perspectives, it is extremely beneficial to have live plants in any space. Humans have a natural instinct to connect with nature and it can often trigger many positive reactions. This includes sharper focus, a reduction in anxiety and stress levels, and even a stronger immune system. Lastly, having a collection of plants can be especially beneficial in urban environments. For example, a plant wall can function as a noise dampener, with the soil, foliage and structure functioning as acoustic insulators. Additionally, as plants absorb sunlight for photosynthesis they lessen the amount that is reflected off of grass and concrete, which is part of what causes cities to heat up so intensely. This heat absorption also diminishes the need for air conditioning and can thus reduce carbon emissions. Overall, it’s never a bad idea to try and grow some little green friends!
Photo courtesy of The Guardian
Whether or not we want to admit it, it is almost necessary to have a phone in today's society.
With billions of smartphones being sold every year, it’s a mystery why more people aren’t concerned with the sustainability and environmental impact of our favourite device. Most mainstream phones are extremely resource-intensive and require extremely rare and toxic materials to produce. Furthermore, the extraction of these materials is fuelled by mining, contributing to high CO2 emissions and concerns around labour practices. In fact, around 80 percent of a phone’s carbon footprint occurs during production. But it’s not just what happens before we receive our phones that is harmful, it’s also the lack of proper disposal that is damaging our ecosystems and water supply. Less than sixteen percent of e-waste is recycled in the formal sector. Many green technology companies have already created sustainable alternatives to mainstream smartphones. Some of the most popular brands are Fairphone and Teracube. Fairphone offers a phone that is made from recycled materials, ensures fair labour conditions along its entire supply chain and has replaceable parts to ensure longevity. Mutually, Teracube phones feature a replaceable battery and a biodegradable chassis, to ensure sustainability and a more eco-friendly disposal process. Overall, there are readily available alternatives to mainstream smartphones that we can feel good about supporting, knowing that our values are reflected in our technology.
Photo courtesy of The Latch
Some may be surprised to see composting associated with green technology. There’s nothing technologically innovative about letting organic matter decay. Or is there? Composting is one of the most overlooked sustainable practices that almost everybody can do. Essentially, composting is the process of allowing your organic waste to decompose until it eventually transforms into high-quality, nutrient rich soil. Organic waste is a broad term but most compost materials consist of vegetable trimmings or cuttings, fruit peels, coffee grounds, grass clippings and dead leaves. Composting itself is a fairly low maintenance activity, however it is important to do our research to ensure we’re not composting materials that should not be composted or allowing a pile to sit for too long. Most composting is done in large piles in yards or gardens, however it works just as well in smaller containers or bins that can be kept outside on balconies. In fact, Pela, an eco-conscious company well-known for their biodegradable phone cases, has recently invested in creating a countertop composting machine, Lomi. Repurposing our food and organic waste through composting can significantly reduce our waste footprint and can even reduce greenhouse gas emissions that come from landfills and waste that is improperly disposed of. Not to mention, composting provides incredibly fertile soil that will make both our plants and our wallets very happy.
So, as we’ve seen, green technology is slowly but surely making its way to the mainstream. As the effects of climate change and excessive greenhouse gasses become more obvious, sustainability and eco-consciousness will be seen as necessities, not as alternatives. Hopefully these green technologies and practices will encourage us to practice gratitude and mindfulness, as we see our values reflected in the technologies that surround us. Lastly, it is important to remind ourselves that practicing sustainability and incorporating green technologies into our lifestyles does not have to be complicated. Green technology is an opportunity for current and future generations to evolve and improve.