9 Ways Technology Helps Protect the Environment In Honor of Earth Day

Technology and humans have been intertwined for millennia, and here are the ways it is also helping the environment too.
Christopher McFadden
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Technology is the hallmark of our species. It has helped us get to where we are today and will be the linchpin of our future on this planet and beyond.

But it has not only benefited mankind. As technology evolves over time it is also helping us reduce our impact on the very environment that gave birth to, and nurtured us for millennia. 


What technologies are helping us protect the environment?

So, without further ado, here are some amazing technologies that are doing their part to protect the environment. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. The digital revolution is helping with deforestation

With more and more aspects of business (and personal life) becoming digital, many organizations are leaning towards using a lot less paper than before. The rise of smartphones and apps has, especially, helped reduced the need for paperwork when completing things like surveys or on-site data collection, for example.

Invoices, newsletters, and other forms of communication are also now primarily in digital formats rather than regular old "snail mail" hard copies. Other apps are quickly replacing diaries, notebooks, etc, which are reducing the need to cut down trees.

2. The rise of the "Sharing Economy" is also helping to protect the environment

The rise of the so-called "Sharing Economy" is another aspect of technology that is helping to protect the environment. With companies like Uber, Airbnb, and even Netflix, fewer people are using or even buying cars, helping used spaces to stay vacant during holidays, and practically eliminating the need for hard copies of films respectively. 

The latter, more specifically, is reducing the need for sending things by post thanks to the switch to streaming services. 

3. Electric cars could also have a huge impact (or might be a double-edged sword)

The rise in the development and popularity of electric cars is also helping the environment. Although not a new technology, per se, the number of EVs on the roads has been rising steadily over the past few years. 

Hybrid vehicles are also more popular than ever. 

This is, in part, thanks to the drop in average unit price over time, as well as, massive improvements to the technology making them more reliable. But, their production does require the use of a lot of some pretty nasty toxic metals whose extraction and refinement are not exactly environmentally-friendly.

4. Our homes are becoming smarter and more environmentally-friendly

With more and more homes around the world becoming "smarter", this technological revolution is really making a change for the better with regards to helping the environment. A large swathe of devices like smart meters, smart thermostats, and motion-activated lighting sensors are helping shred electricity wastage in the home.

Not to mention in the workplace. This has a massive knock-on effect on the environment as homes (and businesses) consume less and less energy (and fuel) as they become smarter. 

5. Renewable tech is finding some interesting solutions to help the environment

Renewable technology really has gotten into its stride over the last few decades. And research and development in this area are really making some innovative solutions that can really help the environment.

One interesting example is the development of solar glass. By combining PV-tech with regular glazing units, this could be a game-changer for self-generation at home or for businesses.

After all, rather than consuming large amounts of space with solar PV arrays, why not just change your windows to solar glass? While still an emerging technology, these solar glazing units are still transparent enough to see out of too. 

6. Tech is helping revolutionize environmental monitoring

Another way technology is helping to protect the environment is through revolutionizing environmental monitoring. Either directly through sensors monitoring air quality to the use of things like drones to patrol poacher exclusion zones, tech is finding some interesting applications.

New tech can also be put through its paces using Environmental Simulations to ensure it complies with regulations prior to hitting the market. 

7. "Fake meat" could also have a massive impact on the environment

Another way that technology is, or rather will, help protect the environment is through the development of "fake meat". Meat production is not the most environmentally-friendly industry. 

Animal suffering aside, animal husbandry for meat tends to consume large amounts of land, water, and other resources. Rather than an outright ban on the consumption of meat, a better (and more realistic) approach is the development and introduction of synthetic meat. 

Several companies are already doing this and if widely accepted, this would be of enormous benefit to the environment around us. 

8. Plant-based plastics are potentially a huge boon for the environment

Another way that technology is going to massively benefit the environment is the advent of plant-based plastics. With the enormous demand for plastic around the world, by switching from the oil-based plastic to plant-derived forms will be massively beneficial.

Not only are they biodegradable but they are very much more sustainable than traditional forms. However, it should be noted that not all bioplastics biodegrade so we will need to be very selective going forward.  

9. Graphene could have a very bright and green future

And finally, graphene has many interesting physical properties that could make it a game-changer for the future of the environment's health. It is thinner than paper, more conductive than copper, and really is one of a few materials that could be considered truly "miraculous".

First developed in 2004, many people are predicting that it could lead to the next step in the technological evolution of our species. It could conceivably be used for ultra-efficient water filters, or as a superconductor that could transfer energy over long distances with minimal loss. 

It could also be the material we have been waiting for to produce ultra-efficient solar panels

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