Sarah Sakeena Marshall
Each year, a host of new gadgets and gizmos are birthed into the market to satisfy any and all of our material whims. This year, we take a look at the technologies that we can expect to see more of in 2015; those that intend to reduce our collective carbon footprint and stave off the most dreadful consequences of climate change, at least for a few more years.
It’s certainly clear that technology is becoming a part of our lives in ways we never imagined, ie, fitness tracking bracelets, smart watches, barcode scanning apps; but people are now investing in entirely smart homes, where just about all of the appliances can be programmed from a cell phone.
The Nest Thermostat has become the first step to sustainability in many homes, able to program itself after “learning” one’s temperature preferences and adjusting accordingly. In addition to the thermostat, Nest has also introduced a smoke alarm called Protect that monitors smoke, as well as carbon monoxide levels. LG and Samsung have come out with Energy Star smart refrigerators; Goji boasts a smart lock that takes pictures of visitors at the door; and there is even a smart toilet, with heated seats and an option to air dry, eliminating the need for toilet paper.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “bioremediation is a treatment process that uses naturally occurring microorganisms (yeast, fungi, or bacteria) to break down, or degrade, hazardous substances into less toxic or nontoxic substances.” This technique has been used to remove nitrates from contaminated water and arsenic from contaminated soil.
The technology has been used at Superfund sites where major hazardous waste contamination of the natural environment has occurred. Bioremediation has been used since the ‘80s by governments but is now being picked up by private citizens.
In Steelton, Pennsylvania, Community Compassion, an organisation aimed at empowering individuals to skill share and grow food, acquired land contaminated by a steel mill and has started using bioremediation to remove toxins from the soil to eventually grow a food forest. Many universities are also investing in bioremediation research.
Let’s face it, electronics need to be updated fairly regularly these days, as technology gets upgraded every few months, but what should we do with those “obsolete” products? That’s where ecoATM comes in.
This kiosk assesses the type of product you’re trying to get rid of, accepts it, and dispenses cash on the spot. According to their website, ecoATM’s environmental commitment stems from the fact that, “Almost all consumer electronics (mobile phones, computer, monitors, printers, etc.) contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and other materials that pose a threat to the environment and our health.” There are currently about 1,100 kiosks but many more are expected be installed in the coming years.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
OTEC “is a marine renewable energy technology that harnesses the solar energy absorbed by the oceans to generate electric power,” as stated by OTEC News.
The technology makes use of the difference in temperature at various depths in the ocean; the warmer water is used to vaporise a working fluid with low boiling point to spin a turbine, producing electricity. Deeper, cooler water is then pumped up to cool the vapour, which condenses the working fluid back into liquid so that it can be reused. Efficiency is determined by the temperature differential, but the fact that it is a closed loop system means continuous, renewable electricity production.
There may still be climate change deniers around the world (primarily in the US), but people are catching on to the need for sustainable technologies and skills that reconnect them with the natural world.
As we quickly approach the 21st Conference of Parties, set to take place in Paris this November to produce a binding universal agreement on carbon emissions, it is up to citizens to demand that their governments act. With a variety of technologies at our disposal and innovations being made regularly, the nations of the world can no longer dawdle on taking concrete, legally binding action on climate change.
Sarah Sakeena Marshall, B.S. Environmental Policy