8 sustainable innovations that could shape the future

Written by: Ryan Hudson at Ethicul

Innovation is the key to turning this planet into a sustainable one. Just look at the relevance we now place on renewable energy resources which decades ago was obselete. As the population of earth continues to grow so alongside it will the wants & demands of us on the earth. Currently, we’re on a trajectory that looks bleak, we have global corporations not acting fast enough to tackle climate change & government policy that will be too late to have a big enough impact. That’s why today I wanted to share with you some of the coolest innovations within sustainability that I am aware of from recent years. These innovations vary in what exact issue they are solving but collectively they highlight how we can change the future by investing in new technologies today.

First up is The Tyre Collective, which was founded by students from the Imperial College in London in 2020. In the UK we can see there is a gradual move away from diesel & petrol vehicles, as the government has committed that by 2030 they will ban the creation of all new diesel & petrol vehicles. Whilst this policy is needed and we do need to speed up the process of moving to electric vehicles there are two major factors that currently policies do not account for: The second largest microplastic pollution in our oceans is from tyre wear and this also accounts for up to 50% of air particulate emissions arising from transport - these probems aren't set to dissapear under the government's current plans. 

These were statistics that shocked me and ones that I was completely unaware of until I found The Tyre Collective. They have made it their mission to alleviate this problem as it has been projected that tyre wear will increase with electric vehicles due to the added weight of their batteries. They have created a device that once connected to a vehicle tyre captures the particles that are released from tyre wear. During their testing they found that their device captures 60% of the particles created from tyre wear. I am very excited to see this device develop in the future and become a staple for all vehicles used in the UK & furthermore globally. Not only this but in the nature of creating a circular economy where we truly reuse & limit our waste, the particles that are captured by their device actually have another purpose. These particles are broken down and then can be used to form other exciting new products but also new tyre walls!

The current global food supply chain is worrying, we are struggling to find the land needed in order to meet the world's demand for food as much what we consume requires high levels of water & land in order to be produced. This challenge is only going to grow as it is predicted that by 2050 the global population of the earth will be 9.7 billion, a staggering 1.9 billion more people. This 23% increase in the earth's population will cause an increase in demand for food that we will need to satisfy, how we go about this is crucial. Do we continue to decimate the Amazon so that we can grow more crops to feed cattle? Do we increase fishing in the oceans? Well Vertical farms are proposing another solution to this.

Vertical farming is a new way of growing crops. Currently we need a lot of land to grow crops, fruits & vegetables, accompanying this the climate is also a crucial factor in making certain areas of the world even viable to grow anything at all. Vertical farms are what I imagine a super futuristic greenhouse could look like in the future, except they are already real. They are optimised by the use of specialist lighting and temperature regulators to allow crops to grow even in the harshest of environments. Importantly, not only does this method of farming have the benefit of using less land but it also uses less water, which we know in many areas of the world is a very sparse resource & must be managed efficiently.

The precision systems this farming technique uses, has proven on a number of occasions that this method of farming can be hundreds of times more efficient than our current practices. One of my favourite examples of vertical farming can be found in California, USA. This particular farm is ran by a business called Plenty. During 2020 this vertical farm was 2-acres in size however it actually produced more food than a traditional 720-acre flat farm. During the study it was also found that it used 99% less land and 95% less water when compared with the exact same yield. The electricity required to run the farm is also from a combination of solar and wind so it's entirely ran on renewable energy sources.

The Smog Free Project is based in Rotterdam, Netherland and is led by the artist & innovator Dan Roosegaard & his team at Studio Roosegaarde. The project has created a series of urban innovations in a campaign to promote & show the beauty in clean air within our world’s cities. They combine their projects with workshops that work alongside the governments, students and the clean-tech industry with the aim of working together to create smog free cities. There are currently Smog Free Projects set up in a number of countries in the world, these are: South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Mexico & Poland. So unfortunately there isn’t anything in the UK for us to visit/see yet, however hopefully it is just a matter of time until Dan & the team set up a project in the UK. There are three of their innovations that I am going to share with you but I highly recommend you check out the rest of their pioneering work

This is the world’s first smog vacuum cleaner, it stands at a whopping 7 feet tall and uses patented ionisation technology to take in smog filled air & produce clean air that no longer contains smog particles. This helps to facilitate easier breathing for those in the surrounding area and truly breathe in clean air for free, bringing alongside it a number of health benefits for all those that experience The Smog Free Tower. Given it’s environmental credentials it was only right for The Smog Free Tower to also run on a small amount of green electricity, while it cleans 30,000 m3 of smog air every hour.

This is created from compressed smog particles that are captured by the Smog Free Tower in both Beijing and Rotterdam. For each and every Smog Free Ring that is created from these particles there is 1000m3 of clean air produced for the city in which The Smog Free Tower is located. Typically it is used as an engagement or wedding ring for a loved one, I couldn’t get over how innovative and unique these rings truly are.

This is the latest addition to The Smog Free Project. The design for this prototype is inspired by Manta Rays, a fish that filters water for food, a characteristic that this bicycle also displays but in a different fashion. A plug in device is attached to the bicycle that inhales polluted air, cleans it and then gives this clean air to the person riding the bicycle. Can you imagine just how much cleaner the air you would breathe in would be if you were to ride one of these bicycles around the streets of central London? This design in my eyes should become the norm for all bicycles produced in the future, and why not if it benefits both us and the environment.

We have all heard of solar panels but I would have a feeling that not everyone reading this article has heard of solar glass bricks. They are a relatively new invention having been invented by a small team from the University of Exeter, who after carrying out extensive research decided they would collaborate together to develop their ideas. They have created a glass brick that is able to create electricity from solar energy. This not only results in more renewable energy that the building can use as their own electricity source but also any excess electricity produced can be sold back to the grid meaning that these glass bricks earn money back over their lifetime. There are also concerns about the appearance of current solar panels that some people do not like & they can also take up large areas of space which not all buildings can accommodate, these bricks attempt to tackle both of these problems with their slick design and smaller size. Could we see these bricks used across London’s skyline in the near future, I would like to hope so.

There is in fact a tunnel in London, 33 metres beneath the busy streets of Clapham to be precise that is being used as an underground farm. This hydroponic farm is able to grow greens underground, the huge factor that differentiates this from a normal land farm is that it does not rely on the weather conditions to be right meaning that it can yield green crops all year round. Not only this but these crops are also grown in a completely pesticide free environment and reduce the air miles & carbon associated with the greens we buy, as these greens are in such a prime location to be delivered to retailers and consumers - which the same can’t be said for rural farms. There is also water saving from this method of farming, as with this hydroponic farm they have found that it uses 70% less water than a traditional farm. Could this be a solution to the problem we face with a growing population and the landmass that is required to supply the food for all those people? Imagine, one of these farms under every major city in the World.

We hope you are not strangers to the work that the team at Gomi Design are carrying out, they are one of my favourite innovators within the sustainability space & they like us are also based within the heart of Brighton. They are leading the way in the consumer technology industry by creating products that are completely circular as they are created from ‘non-recyclable materials’. They work with local & global companies as well as recycling schemes to source waste materials that would otherwise go to landfill which they turn into one of a kind tech products. Their first release was the Gomi portable speaker which is made from plastic bags and powered by 100% repurposed e-bike batteries. Since their first product which went down with huge industry accreditation and great public feedback, they have also released the Gomi wireless mag charger & the Gomi portable charger - all of which are made from 100% waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away. The world currently throws away around 150 billion kilos of plastic waste - Gomi is here to show us that this plastic can be used to create valued and cherished products that people can enjoy, removing some of the damage plastic pollution is causing and showing us that there is a better way. The products that Gomi creates are for life. They ask for all of their products to be returned to them for repair with a promise that they will do everything they can to fix them for you. Once at the end of their life, they will buy them back from you, and recycle all the components into their latest generation products. Truly encompassing circular sustainability into their product designs and business. Check out the Gomi page on our website where you will find an exclusive £5 off code applicable for both the wireless mag charger and their portable charger.

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