The concept of environmental sustainability isn’t new. With the risk of sounding like a broken record, sustainability is simply using resources available to our benefit while making sure there will still be enough for the future generations. Being truly sustainable means ensuring development, while also maintaining biological diversity and preserving the balance of the ecosystem by moving toward using renewable sources of energy in all walks of life.
Many believe that human activities have had no role in making climate change a reality. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, climate change is happening, and sitting back while the world burns down is not an option.
The extreme weather brought on by ongoing climate change also wreaks havoc on the world’s natural land resources, making some areas too wet and other areas too dry. And of course, air pollution continues to chip away at the quality of air we breathe, which will result in several health problems. When all these issues become a reality we can no longer avoid, social decline will begin.
Fret not, for there are a few people who have tried creating alternative/green products. These 10 inventions will help you lead an environmentally stable life:
- Plastic from banana peels
As a society, we can try eliminating unnecessary plastics from our day-to-day lives. To help with this process, 16-year-old Elif Beligin from Istanbul developed a chemical process that would help turn banana peels into a resistant bioplastic. His choice of material came after he realized the fruit is naturally wrapped in a wrapper, that provides all the protection it needs, characterized by its flexibility and strength.
- Lamps to grow plants in windowless spaces
Nui Design Studio created the Lamp Mygdal, which acts as a home to a completely autonomous ecosystem that allows plants to even survive in windowless interiors. Translated into English, Mygdal means “fertile soil.” They come in both pendant lamp and standing lamp forms, which are aesthetically pleasing.
- Transparent solar panels
Solar power systems help derive clean energy from the sun, and installing them in your homes will help combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduce your carbon footprint.
The first breakthrough happened in 2014 when researchers at the Michigan State University created a fully transparent solar concentrator that could turn any window or sheet of glass, much like your smartphone’s screen into a photovoltaic solar cell. Solar panels generate energy by converting absorbed photons into electrons. For a material to be fully transparent, light would have to travel uninhibited to the eye, which means those photons would have to pass through the material completely (without being absorbed to generate solar power). To create this panel, the team created something called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which employs organic salts to absorb wavelengths of light that are already invisible to the human eye. Richard Lunt, who led the research at the time, went on and confounded an MIT startup called Ubiquitous Energy, which went on to bring its transparent solar panels to the market.
- Edible water
Skipping Rocks Lab, a Climate KIC start-up program founded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), came up with a solution to the world’s growing plastic problem. They created Ooho, a thin, translucent seaweed sleeve that can hold liquid. It’s edible and completely biodegradable. This little ball is durable enough to not tear unless you want to break into it. The spherical flexible packaging can also be used for other liquids including water, soft drinks, spirits, and cosmetics. Their product is even cheaper than plastic.
- The water-saving showerhead
On an average, a typical 8-minute shower uses around 20 gallons of water. To combat this problem, a U.S.-based company designed the Nebia shower.
Nebia used the same tools and techniques used for building rocket engines and medical equipment to create a new nozzle technology that atomizes water into a million tiny droplets. As a result, this shower head covers 10 times more surface area than a regular shower, which helps reduce water usage by 70 percent. It is a self-installable system that can be adjusted in terms of height and angle of water stream, according to your needs.
- Portable wind turbine
Wind energy is yet another alternative to non-renewable forms of energy. It is a clean fuel source that has the potential to reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent. It is cost-effective and available in abundance. However, one disadvantage is that wind energy requires a large amount of land. Unless you own a farm or a ranch, shifting to wind energy can prove to be difficult. An innovation company called Janulus aims to change that with Trinity, a portable wind turbine that’s available in four different-sized models to accommodate a variety of your power needs. The turbine uses lithium-ion batteries similar to the ones used in electric cars. It is usable in winds as low as 2 mph, and when fully charged, it is capable of charging your iPhone 16 times. The product comes with an app that will turn the device on and off, provide stats on how much power you’re generating and recommendations on its setup, which you can customize based on wind conditions.
- Sprout pencil
To limit the waste that accompanies worn-out writing utensils, three MIT students created Sprout Pencil, a multifunctional alternative, which is composed of cedar, with a biodegradable capsule of seeds and peat in place of an eraser. Once the pencil gets too small to write with, you can place it in some soil and watch it give birth to new life. The pencils come in 14 varieties, and a pack of eight is $19.95, but the company hopes to lower the price so that every student can afford to use these pencils.
- Power-generating tiles
Many companies have been working toward developing a technology that will help tap into the energy expended by pedestrians.
The solution came to 31-year-old Laurence Kemball-Cook back in 2009 when he studied industrial design and technology at the University of Loughborough. Under the banner of his company, Pavegen, he created floor tiles that help convert kinetic energy from footsteps into electricity that can be stored or used in low-power applications, such as lighting, signage, and digital displays.
- The feedback band
To help you calculate your carbon footprint, Layer, a design studio based in London, collaborated with Carbon Trust, an environmental nonprofit that specializes in low-carbon initiatives to create the Worldbeing wristband.
The band works with a smartphone app to help its users monitor their carbon footprint by measuring minute details right from what you had for breakfast, how far you drove the car, and even what you bought in a store. The app gives daily challenges with the incentive of winning a reward or more from low-carbon businesses and helps you reduce your eco-impact. It even shows you how you’re saving planet Earth.
- The plastic recycling machine
Even though most of us know the consequences of using plastic, it is difficult to avoid using it. Unless you start making your own make-up and beauty products and growing your own vegetables, you will notice that plastic is almost everywhere.
To help us deal with this, Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, who designed Phonebloks, came up with Precious Plastic, a series of automated machines that turn plastic into household items. The product is aimed at reducing waste and making plastic recycling more accessible. The machine melts the waste collected and molds them into usable items. He open-sourced the design so that anyone could easily download it.