It seems that you can’t go a week without hearing a news story about global warming or the latest subtle change in day to day life that aims to make everyone more environmentally conscious. Whether it’s changing from plastic straws to paper in the UK or the viral reaction to the ban on plastic bags in Thailand (people are using everything from bird cages to wheelbarrows as bags now), changes at a micro level are quite notable. But what about those changes being made at the macro level?
With the World Economic Forum taking place at the time of writing, a big focus of the event is on climate change and global warming, and how big companies are employing new technologies to bring down emissions and change our relationship with energy.
Wondering what some of those changes are? Here are some of the technologies, from the way we drive to how we heat buildings, which aim to have some positive effect on global warming. And it all starts with being a courteous driver.
Technology 1: Regenerative Braking
The biggest stumbling block for many people who are toying with the idea of getting an electric car is the battery life, or rather, the range you can get from a car on one charge. Many new models from companies like Fiat and Tesla have regenerative braking, also known as regen.
Anytime you drive a car, hitting the brakes creates energy as friction is slowing the vehicle down. Traditionally this will see your brake pads heat up. In an electric or hybrid car, brake pads don’t let that wasted energy go anywhere. Instead, they store up that potential energy and divert it back to the battery.
Now it won’t see you be able to recharge a car fully, but if you use a vehicle for city driving where there’s a lot of time spent at traffic lights and junctions, you could find yourself coming back home with more miles in the tank than when you left.
Technology 2: Incredibly large batteries
Speaking of batteries, how often do you have to change the batteries in your remote control? Imagine what it would be like if your car or home were the same way.
While still quite a new technology, home batteries could see you replacing electric, gas and oil with a single battery unit that generates completely green energy from a turbine or solar panels. The cost of installing and running the batteries is still quite expensive (a simple unit in the UK averages £12,000 set-up), but with the option for someone to sell some of the electricity they generate back to the local grid, it can bring the cost right down.
Technology 3: Neatpumps
While domestic heating has a simple solution, those in the commercial and industrial sectors don’t have it so easy. Many rely on fossil fuels, and according to industrial heating company Star Refrigeration, it is estimated that at least 30% of the UK’s heat-related CO2 emissions are due to companies using outdated technology.
That’s where neatpumps come in. To quote Marge Simpson, we “just think they’re neat” for using water as the primary heating source. Pumps like these use water pressure to warm water like a big kettle and then push that hot water in heating systems. A building uses that heat and sends the cold water back to the pump, which reheats the water, and the process begins again.
It drastically reduces the amount of fuel needed to get the water heated in the first place; a win-win for any business.
Technology 4: Food Sprays
Avocado toast is great, and if you were trying Veganuary, you might have been eating a lot more soya. Both are great for you, but ironically bad for the environment as these foodstuffs have to travel far and wide to make it to your supermarket shelf. And it’s especially annoying for veggie lovers when products have such a short shelf life, meaning food gets binned and the cycle continues.
That could all change if we start using non-toxic sprays on fresh food. Companies like Apeel Sciences are trying to create completely non-harmful sprays that could completely change our relationship with food. Sprays can act as an additional level of protection and act as a preservative that could see you have anything from bananas to tomatoes that live longer in your kitchen without having to be wrapped in plastic.
Technology 5: Supplements for Animals
If we’re eating more healthily, then animals should be able to as well. One of the biggest arguments against eating meat is the level of methane cows make from their flatulence. Leave it Dutch geniuses like those at DSM to realize that swapping fields of grass for bags of seaweed can lower livestock emissions.
Yes, it seems like leafy greens could see cows burping less and being green in the process.
Technology 6: Trees, lots of trees
It was a hashtag earlier this year, but the Amazon is still on fire, as is Australia and parts of California right now. Fires that big wipe out vast swathes of forest land and the big technological solution to fixing the problem is as old school as it gets; plant more trees. Trees are still the best way of lower CO2 in the atmosphere (better than any machine anyway) so having as many as possible will always work.
Trees are so important that even Donald Trump said at the World Economic Forum he’s happy for America to join a pledge to plant one trillion trees. Considering that a tree on average stores 48 pounds of carbon each year, planting as many as possible is the smartest way to bring carbon level downs.
So while all the latest innovations in technology do wonders, it’s still the most straightforward approach that helps with global warming.