By now, there are several environmentally friendly technologies that have taken the world by storm and are now a part of the cultural lexicon.
We all know about hybrid cars (and now electric), energy-efficient light bulbs and even solar-powered cell phone chargers. These are the kinds of things that are a part of our everyday lives.
But what’s most exciting to me are all of the cool green tech developments that we don’t hear about every day…yet.
As awareness of environmental issues reaches critical mass, more and more innovative technologies are being developed, some of which will surely soon become the norm. Here, we take a look at four of the most interesting under-the-radar innovations that benefit the environment.
Yes, you read that correctly: power derived from urine.
Once you get past the unusualness of it, the concept of urine-tricity is pretty darn amazing. It’s also a legitimate technology – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the project and Yannis Leropoulos of the Bristol BioEnergy Center is heading up the effort to turn human waste into clean electricity.
The idea behind urine-tricity is to have urinal pipes connected directly to microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which contain live microorganisms that create a by-product of electrons after feeding on the urine. The MFCs have electrodes in them that that enable the electrons to transfer which will then result in a current.
The hope is that the unique technology can be particularly useful in developing countries that face challenges with both sanitation and energy. The technology is still being developed, but it’s already been shown to have the capacity to power an average cell phone. Given that the world produces around 6.4 trillion liters of urine a year, this could become a seriously viable option for renewable, green energy.
2. CO2 Dry Cleaning
There’s no doubt that manufacturing uses up large amounts of energy that results in a lot of material waste. But there’s no easy way around changing the demand for material goods. No matter how digital our society goes, there will always be the need for cars and medical devices and airplanes and millions of other material objects that need to be made in a factory.
However, one way that manufacturing can become more environmentally friendly is by adopting CO2 dry cleaning practices. Don’t be confused by the fact that it uses C02 though – it doesn’t contribute to the greenhouse effect any more than you drinking a can of Coke or Pepsi. On the contrary, it uses recycled CO2, which doesn’t generate additional carbon dioxide. This “dry” cleaning solution uses solid particles of CO2 or snow cleaning, to effectively clean surfaces.
But, unlike traditional cleaning methods, it doesn’t use any water and it doesn’t rely on chemicals that are harmful to the environment. So, it does the job without resulting in waste in the form of precious water or dangerous chemical runoff. It’s a big step in making manufacturing an industry that poses less of a threat to the environment.
3. Lab Meat
Regardless of your eating habits, as long as you live on planet Earth, you should see lab-grown meat as great news. The meat industry has huge negative effects on our environment. Everything from feeding the animals to the harmful methane gas that they produce makes the meat industry an unviable practice.
But don’t worry, environmental scientists are not going to tell you to stop eating meat. Instead, they are developing real meat that can be created in labs. So-called “in vitro meat” is produced using cells that are harmlessly derived from live animals and then grow and multiply in the lab. At this point, it’s still not economically efficient, but it soon may be.
4. Vertical Farming
According to some population projections, by the year 2050, there will be a whopping 3 billion more people on the planet than there are today. And to meet their needs, a huge amount of farming land will be needed to grow food – to give you an idea, about 20% more than the total area of Brazil. Well, there’s a lot of land out there, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong.
In fact, almost 80% of the world’s viable farming land is already being used for crops. Plus, our current farm land is extremely vulnerable to severe weather and climate change. So, if we hope to be able sustain this ever-growing population, something drastically different needs to be done about our food sources. Enter vertical farming, which is just what it sounds like.
Several companies all over the world are developing indoor, hydroponic farms, some of which are sun-lit while others are LED-powered. As the world’s urban centers grow and LED lights become more efficient, this is an increasingly smart and sustainable way to grow food and supply it to cities without having to waste time and energy in transport from rural farms.
Although these technologies might be flying slightly underneath the radar now, they may soon be everyday practices. And, more importantly, these efficient innovations could very well be a part of the puzzle of saving the environment for future generations.
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