Is sustainability or climate change behind the drive for new technology?

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Sustainability, and the need to address the imminent climate emergency, is one of the big buzzwords, which came out from 2019. But the trend is definitely here to stay, especially after the bushfire, which has devastated Australia earlier this year. After Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future”, we are all pushed to take a position on climate activism, or even climate, at large. Decarbonization, or the decision to move away from fossil fuels, such as petrol, has been on the table for years now. But only now do we really see people turn to environmentally-friendly solutions and zero-waste solutions.


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A Move Towards Environmentally-Friendly Solutions

The term “eco-warrior” was actually coined in the last decade of the 20th century. In short, caring about the planet is nothing new or revolutionary. In many countries, especially in the developed world, an environmental assessment is a compulsory part of any major decision or investment plan. Sustainability is now fully embedded into much of our legislation and decision-making process. However, we now see an “awakening” in consumer behavior and a move towards more environmentally-friendly solutions at the local level.

We already identified the energy sector as one of the biggest polluters, largely due to its reliance on oil and petrochemicals. Who else is guilty of neglecting the natural environment? With the latest trend, “flygskam”, the Swedish phrase for “flying shame”, the attention has turned to airline operators and international flights. And then we have the debate on plastics. Each year, 8 tons of plastic debris is dumped into the oceans, reports the UK’s Guardian, largely putting the blame on common household items.

Environmentally-Friendly Solutions And Its Effects On Innovation?

We have all seen those shiny new solar panels on the roofs of houses. But actually environmentally-friendly solutions have been here for much of the 20th century. Take hydro as an example: the construction of the Hoover Dam started as early as 1931. In this day and age, big hydroelectric projects are criticized for their local impact. But their energy is 100% renewable, which is why states like China continue to invest in building dams.

Nowadays, the biggest advances in the energy sector come through wind power. Even under the Trump administration, the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy admits that wind is one of the most cost-efficient sources of energy, which has made a huge technological “jump” over the last decade. The turbines of today have increased their operational capacity by 100%, in direct comparison to their predecessors. In turn, “wind turbine technician” is one of the fastest-growing jobs of the last few years.

Owning Electric Cars

When it comes to transport, there is endless speculation about electric cars. We have already come across those docking points, designed for the owners of electric vehicles in Europe or the US. Even mainstream manufacturers are heavily investing in electric engines, not to mention brands like Tesla. Suddenly, no-one wants to be called a “petrolhead” anymore. Meanwhile, Europeans are re-discovering the joy of taking the night train, as they dump mid- to short flight connections.

As a society, we are still largely dependent on plastics. But new, innovative natural fibers are slowly coming to our rescue. Bamboo fiber cotton buds or tooth-brushes are now available from every major shop or outlet. Materials like Piñatex do not only successfully emulate plastics but also animal products, such as leather. In other words, new-century fashion is not only environmentally-friendly or natural but also fully vegan. This example illustrates that it is all about lifestyle changes.

Is this what drives innovation forward? Consumer behavior is a powerful engine for change. People are actually voting with their wallets.

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