How Technology and Sustainability Can Work Hand-in-Hand (Guest contributor)

Emergent Thinkers.com welcomes guest blogger, Alyssa Jane Clarkson

With climate change concerns becoming increasingly alarming each day, more and more organisations, communities, and households have become more conscious about sustainability. In response, different technologies have also started to cater more to this need. And while technological waste is often seen as part of the problem, Felicity Healey-Benson previously pointed out that technology clearly can be part of the solution. There just needs to be a clearer mandate for environmental protection. And so far, innovations from different industries seemed to be working well towards that goal.


Improving Efficiency

One crucial role of technology right now is in increasing the energy efficiency of the supply chain and transportation systems. The development of improved fuel-efficient automobiles and integrated urban mass transit arrangements are currently being rolled out in many countries across the world. For supply chains, which cause approximately 90% of companies’ environmental impact, fuel-efficient technology can make a huge difference in improving sustainability efforts. A feature on how fuel-monitoring technology can help companies by Verizon Connect outlines how it identifies and prevents idle time, calibrates and improves driving practices, and recognises which vehicles need tune-ups to improve fuel efficiency. This can prove to be especially useful, as fuel costs can represent up to 30% of a company’s total expenses.

Meanwhile, AI and machine learning are also being used to save energy and reduce emissions. Google’s DeepMind team uses AI to cut energy consumption by 40% in cooling their data centres. They also reported that machine learning had increased the value of their wind energy by roughly 20%, through the early prediction of wind output and optimal hourly delivery to their power grid.


Generating Power

Just as technology can save energy, it can also create it using the sun, wind, water, and even footsteps. Portland’s LucidPipe allows residents to generate electricity whenever they use their faucets and flush their toilets, through turbines installed within existing pipes. Perth’s Wave Energy Project utilises Western Australia’s powerful waves through CETO Technologies’ buoy-like structures left in the water to collect waves and generate power.

Dancing and walking can now even light up a city. London-based cleantech company Pavegen has developed flooring that generates energy from people’s footsteps. They partnered with Samsung to build a walkway in one of Johannesburg’s shopping malls. While it supplies energy for Samsung’s interactive data screen, it also collects energy for distribution in underdeveloped communities of South Africa.


Monitoring Environmental Impact

Different sensor technologies have been used to detect, visualise, and manage different elements impacting the environment. For instance, new technologies have pointed out that 25% of the global warming we’re experiencing today is due to methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Companies like ExxonMobil and Schlumberger are partnering with Stanford University and the Environmental Defense Fund to produce the best mobile methane monitoring technologies that can help the oil and gas industries manage their emissions more efficiently. The leak detection technologies selected for the study were deployed via trucks, drones, and planes.


Preparing for Natural Disasters

If technology can help us monitor and manage the harm we bring to the environment, it can also help us assess the severity of natural disasters. Companies like Jupiter Intelligence use satellite imagery and advanced computer models to provide predictive data, analytics, mapping, and visualisation of climate-related catastrophes, like storms and wildfires, to governments and businesses.

AT&T has also partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to come up with climate model datasets that can dramatically improve the ability to foresee changing risks to infrastructure from severe weather events and increased inland and coastal flooding. These predictions are created from a climate analysis tool that combines data analysis, predictive modelling, and visualisation for vulnerable areas like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This tool will help AT&T plan and make climate adaptations to help ensure the safety and service connectivity of its employees, customers, and host communities.

Hopeful Futures

With the examples tendered, whilst not fully comprehensive of all ongoing activity, there is evidence of a strengthening partnership between technology and sustainability—a clear indication of positive growth in science appliance for sustainable ends. Hopefully, opportunities and success will continue to outweigh the negativity surrounding the less successful or abused schemes previously pledged to impact sustainable goals, e.g. carbon offsetting scams. Advancing technology is key to protecting our environment. Let’s hope it will continue to influence organisations to operate more responsibly than ever.

Written by Alyssa Jane Clarkson
Exclusive for emergentthinkers.com

Image Credit: Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash


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