Waste Not Want Not – never has this been truer, especially if you view it in the context of not wasting our small blue planet. We all need to reduce waste by reducing how much we consume and being selective about where things come from.
August 19 was Earth Overshoot Day 2014, marking the date when humanity used up nature’s budget for the year. For the rest of the year, we are operating in “overshoot”. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was on August 21. Two days may not seem much, but by this rate of change we will be overusing our resources by August 7 in 2020 and July 28 in 2025.
As scary as this statistic is, was can do something about this. It will involve effort, not only to change our own behaviours, but also to influence the behaviour of others. Fortunately people are making advances in technology to help us.
To achieve this, sustainability is the key. To follow are some ways in which innovative people are helping us do this.
Outdoor clothing outfitters, Patagonia, have developed a wetsuit made from natural rubber derived from a desert shrub instead of the conventional petroleum based neoprene. It is hoped that this material will not only be the main source of rubber for wetsuits but will also replace it in other items from running shoes to yoga mats.
A team from a Hong Kong university have created a cashmere fibre which is cleaned just using sunlight. This has the potential to drastically reduce chemicals and water needed to clean clothes. On this subject, it is also important to remember that many things can be used/ worn more than once before washing.
MIT recently reported on the development of a material with optical properties which could cut the cost of solar power in half. It will reduce the cost by reducing the cost of tracking systems used in generating solar power by changing reflectivity in response to heat. This will make it possible to capture light coming in a greater number of angles throughout the day, instead of specifically focused sunlight, reducing the need to keep apparatus pointed directly at the sun.
Furthering the concepts of fashion and renewable energy is the development of fibres which capture solar energy show great potential.
Solar Fiber is developing a flexible photovoltaic fibre that converts sunlight into electrical energy. Their prototype is a solar shawl which displays the amount of energy being generated.
Harvest is a project looking to make use of kinetic energy (movement). They are looking at transferring energy from body movement to a battery embedded in shoes or clothing, or attached to bicycles. This can then be connected to a smart phone to power it.
Researchers at Michigan State University have also been looking at improving solar energy collection. They have developed transparent solar panels which can not only be used on windows, to collect solar energy – they can be used on any device with a clear surface, such as smart phones.
In a positive move towards sustainability of their products, General Mills have announced they aim to achieve “zero net deforestation” by 2020 in high risk supply chains to protect lands in countries that supply palm oil, packaging, beef, soy and sugar cane. It would be better if their policy meant zero deforestation, but it’s a start, that is the result of public outcry.
People are making a difference. Renewable energy currently supplies 22% of the world’s electricity, and this figure is increasing.
We can all do our part to ‘waste not, want not’ but using less and being selective about what we use.