There is a large misconception that economic development cannot occur if not at the expense of sustaining nature. Some argue that spending more on the environment hinders economic growth which has been proven time and time again not to be true. A study by The Eliasch Review estimated that by halving the deforestation rate by 50%, the world economy would actually gain $3.7 trillion from carbon capture services by 2030. They also found that thriving wildlife accounts for around $320 billion of the United States’ pharmaceutical market, in terms of materials and learnings gathered. These are obviously quite big issues that need tackling, but on a world-wide scale there is still a huge learning exercise in just how much our activities affect the survival of the world we live in.
Overall, we think that we have become quite good at changing our seemingly micro every day habits towards greener living. However, we are perhaps not quite good enough according to a new report by Frontier Economics. The report outlines where we are failing to meet our carbon reduction targets and that essentially more effort is needed to ‘greenify’ our work and home. Every day technology and small change behaviour actions are in the most part, what will enable us to get back on track for a target-smashing 2020.
At work and home, computer technology accounts for 3-4% of the world’s carbon emissions, which is more than what aviation contributes! Getting on top of what technology we use on the daily is a sure-fire way to change that number. Companies can now choose to purchase equipment that uses better materials and have more optimised running performances, or they can start adapting more towards the cloud to lessen the financial strain.
Cloud computing and storage saves a vast amount of energy every day. Remember when you had to save everything to those retro, hard-plastic floppy disks? Now most people have some form of online hosting account where they keep most of their photos and documents. Cloud services refer to using some form of web-based area to perform and store tasks. Your email inbox is a form of cloud storage. A study conducted by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, Northwestern University and Google found that moving the daily applications of 86 million US workers to the cloud would save enough electricity to power Los Angeles for a year.
Cloud storage goes beyond simply holding and saving data on your personal or many work computer hard drives. Applications can be shifted to a larger infrastructure cloud, meaning local computers don’t have to carry all the data and work. This increases server longevity and reduces it need for over-worked scrappage and the resulting loss of materials that come with this. Shared sever centers require fewer machines to get the same capacity of utilization. The larger sever companies usually have the funds at hand to continuously improve stock towards more environmentally friendly alternatives. This is something that the average office place of employment doesn’t have the funds to do. Overall, they work really well to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint.
Getting to your work is now a much greener commute. Electric cars improve the air quality around us given that they don’t produce any form of harmful emissions, they don’t have an exhaust pipe! Even those that combine electricity with traditional fuel, called plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), produce much lower emissions than standard engines alone.
The directly felt benefits of switching to electric cars is the air quality that we end up breathing. Public Health England put together an air pollution report that details 5.3% of deaths in the UK can be attributed to long-term exposure of airborne particles. It acts as a contributory factor to cardiovascular deaths such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma. With a reduced output of the harmful airborne chemicals, achieved partly through electric cars, we can reduce the affect this has on us.
For those modes of transport that require a little more time to make the full leap into electric version, biofuels can be a good half-way there solution. Road trips in the US from cars, buses, motorbikes and lorries make a distance equivalence per year of travelling to the Sun and back 13,440 times.
Biofuel is made up of plant material, for example you might have heard of people putting oil in their engine. This is not exactly what happens but biodiesel does use rapeseed and other plant oils to fuel engines without requiring any modification to the engine itself. Bioethanol is made from sugar cane, wheat and other plants and can be used in modified engines.
Our at home recycling has improved using smart organic tech advancements. Styrofoam is often thrown into the general waste bin at home, with a sinking feeling in your stomach when you do it mind, but a new type of bacteria has been developed to allow us to properly breakdown the materials. The Styrofoam can be turned into energy and bio gradable plastic, steering it away from clogging up our waterways and causing major issues.
We are all well versed in a lot of things to do with home energy saving, we know bins, we know lightbulbs, we know insulation, but something that we might not know so much about it smart home technology. By adding in smart-controlled tech like automatic, temperature and presence controlled radiator valves, smart lighting and AI incorporated boiler boards, the cost of running a home in carbon and in money is drastically reduced all without much effort. In the US, homes account for 22.5% of the energy used by that country. Installing smart thermostats alone would save 12% of this cost.
This is just a snapshot of how small changes in everyday behaviour benefits the environment and the major carbon reduction goals of 2020. It doesn’t take a lot to start encouraging yourself and those around you at work and home to help contribute to the big-ticket item changes in our world today. This is particularly true when advances in everyday green technology is basically doing most of the hard work for you!