There's never been a greater push for sustainable products and technologies than there is today. We've reached a critical point with regards to climate change, and many innovators and businesses are stepping up to the plate to build a greener future. Here are just some of the incredible examples of sustainable innovation that could change the world as we know it, and pave the way for a more sustainable way of living.
1. The Smog Free Project: Air pollution can now be transformed into jewelry
Daan Roosegaarde is the mastermind behind the world's first smog vacuum cleaner. The Smog Free Tower measures almost 23 feet high (7 meters) and sucks in polluted air, cleaning it through a process of ionization before releasing it again. At its peak performance, the tower cleans 30,000 m3 of air per hour.
Thanks to Roosegaarde's design, you can even wear rings made from the compressed smog particles collected from the tower. By buying and wearing a Smog Free Ring, you're contributing to over 10,700 square feet (1000 square meters) of clean air. The project has garnered a lot of attention since its inception, winning multiple awards. Recent tower campaigns have been launched in South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Poland.
2. Zéphyr Solar: An autonomous solar balloon bringing electricity to disaster zones
Zéphyr is a photovoltaic balloon and eco-friendly generator created by Karen Assaraf, Julie Dautel, and Cédric Tomissi, and their France-based start-up EONEF. The autonomous aerial platform takes the form of a helium balloon. Operating individually or as an aerial observation network, the solar-powered balloons can be deployed in under an hour, can fly to 30 days at a time, are capable of withstanding winds of 43 mph (70 kph), and can fly at great altitudes.
The EONEF balloons can be used for a wide range of sustainability initiatives. They are being incorporated in scientific missions like observing wildlife, measuring air quality, and can be used to promote coordination during a disaster. It is easily one of our favorite sustainable innovation projects to come out of France in recent years.
3. The Green Building Initiative
The Green Building Initiative (GBI) is an international effort towards creating sustainable, resource-efficient buildings. They offer a certification program for commercial buildings that adhere to their environmentally-friendly vision. Their goal is to establish a standard of best practices for green buildings globally, as well as providing third-party assessment tools for sustainability requirements.
4. B-Droid: Robotic bees could help us build a brighter future
B-Droid is just one of several efforts to create robotic bees that can pollinate crops as effectively as their organic counterparts. B-Droid's mission is to help boost the natural bee population by giving low-nutritional and high-labor pollination tasks to robotic bees.
Created by researchers at the University of Warsaw, B-Droid's vision consists of a managing platform and swarms of autonomous and semi-autonomous robots, which would have the ability to identify and pollinate crops effectively. Hopefully, this sustainable innovation does not turn into an episode of Black Mirror.
5. Groasis Waterboxx: Growing trees in the desert is now possible
The Groasis Waterboxx was created by Dutch flower exporter, Pieter Hoff. The Groasis is a planting device that makes growing crops in the desert possible and resource-efficient. It consists of an "intelligent bucket" made from recycled paper, which can germinate seeds, incubate saplings, and water plants. It requires 90% less water than traditional growing methods and can be used in some of the most extreme climates on Earth.
6. Supermarket Herb Gardens: Less Waste, Better Taste
Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn introduced in-store herb gardens in 2017, to combat waste and give customers the freshest possible produce. The initiative was developed in collaboration with design agency studiomfd. The herbs are grown to maturity off-site, before being transported to stores.
Customers can then cut as many sprigs of the herbs as they need, without buying pre-packaged sprigs. It's a simple and effective way to cut down on plastic packaging. Projects like this are examples of simple sustainable innovations with far-reaching positive implications. You could also try to grow your own herbs at home.
7. AirCarbon: A sustainable plastic for the future
AirCarbon was developed by Newlight Technologies and has already won many awards for its innovative sustainability. It's made from carbon emissions that would otherwise be released into the air and can have a multitude of uses. It's a verified carbon-negative material, meaning every step of its production and use is fully green and sustainable. Because it is not made from oil like other plastics, it is also a cost-effective alternative to other synthetic materials.
8. Solar Glass could cover your home in the future
Solar glass could change the way we create homes and commercial buildings. Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing solar glass, a sustainable engineering project that has generated a lot of buzz in recent years. Just as the name implies, the solar glass would be able to capture and store solar energy.
According to the research team, 5 to 7 billion square meters of usable window space exists, enough to power a full 40% of US energy needs using solar glass.
9. ENGIE Insight: Providing resources for a sustainable world
Formerly known as Ecova, ENGIE Insight is a sustainable resource management initiative that works with businesses to reduce environmental impact. They provide technology and experts to help businesses with their goals of becoming more sustainable and reducing their carbon footprint. To date, they've worked with AMTRAK, GameStop, and others to create resource-efficient business practices that don't harm the environment.
10. Demetra: Reducing food waste organically is easier than you think
Created by an Italian start-up Green Code, Demetra is an all-natural treatment for food preservation. It's made from 100% plant extracts and can improve the shelf life of natural produce.
Thanks to Demetra, produce would no longer need to be kept at cold temperatures while in transit, saving a lot of energy. The product also helps produce to stay fresh and ripe longer, effectively reducing food waste in supermarkets and groceries.
11. The Seabin: Cleaning the oceans safely with trash bins
The Seabin was created by Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, two surfers who wanted to clean up the world's oceans. The Seabin can filter out plastic, detergents, and oil, allowing clean water to flow back out. Inside the bin is a catch bag, which traps any floating pollutants.
A submersible water pump sucks water through the bin, passing it out again once it has been cleaned. It only needs to be emptied once a month and could make a big impact on water pollution in ports and harbors worldwide. Sustainability engineering for the win!
12. S.Café: Fabric created with recycled from coffee grounds
S. Café has created a method of transforming coffee grounds into wearable textiles, that are more energy-efficient and faster to produce than traditional natural fibers. Their patented yarn dries 200% faster than cotton and can be produced with low temperatures and little energy. In addition to this, the yarn naturally absorbs odors and reflects UV rays, thanks to its unique micro-pores.
13. Sundrop Farms: Energy Efficient Agriculture
Sundrop Farms is known for cultivating a set of sustainable agricultural technologies that require fewer finite resources than traditional farming. This sustainable agricultural project depends on concentrated solar power and thermal desalination. Their farm in Port Augusta, South Australia is irrigated with water drawn from the Spencer Gulf, which is desalinated before being used to feed the crops. This desalination process, along with other operations on the farm, is entirely powered by solar power.
14. The Veganbottle: An All-Natural Alternative to Plastic Bottles
Created by LYSPACKAGING, the Veganbottle is made from an all-natural bioplastic that could replace plastic bottles forever. Everything in the Veganbottle, from the cap to the wrapper, is made from 100% biodegradable materials. The bottle is made from sugar cane extracts. Sugar cane requires far less water than other crops, and the manufacturing of the bottle itself uses less energy than conventional manufacturing.
15. PowWow Energy: Save water and money with this innovative app
PowWow Energy is an app that messages farmers when there's an issue with their irrigation system. They offer two products - a Pump Monitor to reduce water waste, and an Irrigation Advisor to ensure the best possible crop yield.
Their products allow farmers to monitor their own data when it comes to water usage and identify pipe leaks or breakages immediately. Users only receive messages from the app when there's an issue, allowing them to efficiently avoid waste and get the most out of the crops.
16. Eka 1 and Eka 2 Seeds: A proposed solution to deforestation
Palm oil production has long been linked to widespread deforestation, as huge areas of rainforest are cleared in order to cultivate the product. However, thanks to new seeds developed by Golden Agri-Resources, this need no longer be the case.
Plants grown from the new seeds, known as Eka 1 and Eka 2, could produce up to three times the amount of oil than the current industry average. The modified seeds would also mature faster, and would be less susceptible to drought and disease.
17. CloudFisher: Converting fog into drinking water
Created by Aqualonis, CloudFisher could allow people living in coastal or mountainous areas to convert fog into safe drinking water. This water can also be used to irrigate crops or for forestry efforts.
It's made from a 3D mesh that can withstand high wind speeds, while still retaining water. It comes in a variety of sizes to suit individual needs or the needs of an entire village. The green innovation example is already being used to help people around the world.
18. Fairphone: The world's first ethical smartphone
Fairphone is a modular smartphone designed with fair work practices and recycling in mind. To combat the growing waste caused by discarded electronic goods, Fairphone created a long-lasting smartphone that can be easily repaired.
Rather than replacing the entire phone if part of it breaks, Fairphone allows you to simply replace the broken module. Everything from the battery to the audio jack can be replaced, meaning fewer phones will end up in landfills.
19. Waitrose Delivery vans fuelled by food waste
Last year, British supermarket chain Waitrose introduced a new fleet of eco-friendly delivery vans. The vans run on biomethane, a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Delivery vehicles are responsible for high levels of carbon emissions, and finding green alternatives to gasoline and diesel-powered delivery systems is crucial. Vans like the ones used by Waitrose could be a game-changer for delivery fleets across the world.
20. Bakey's: A Delicious Way to Replace Plastic Cutlery
Created by Narayana Peesapaty, Bakey's is a green alternative to plastic cutlery. Plastic cutlery cannot be recycled, and thus results in great amounts of waste every year. Bakey's is a brand of edible cutlery, which comes in three different flavors: plain, sweet, and savory. They're 100% natural, vegan, and will biodegrade if not eaten.
21. Outerwall EcoATM: Get Cash For Your Old Electronics
Discarded electronic products account for huge amounts of waste, and recycling efforts are ramping up to encourage people against throwing away their old gadgets. One initiative is the EcoATM - a machine that gives you money in exchange for your discarded devices.
All you have to do is bring your device to an EcoATM kiosk where it is evaluated and valued, and you can walk away with money directly transferred to your bank account, PayPal, or in vouchers! A great incentive for staying green.
Interested in more sustainable engineering projects? Check out this robot that can tell farmers when to water the crops.