With all the dire news about our environment that seems to emerge on a monthly basis, sometimes I worry for my children’s future. But then I hear about inventors and scientists developing a new technology or inventing a product that will reduce or repurpose waste, conserve energy, and help us live more sustainably.
I’m been collecting some of these ideas as a way to keep an eye on whether they come to fruition. Wouldn’t it be great if some of these products and inventions actually become commonplace? It’s not so far-fetched: After all, hybrid cars, now mainstream, were once just an idea on a drawing board.
Take a look at these cool technologies — which ones do you hope will become commonplace in years to come?
1. Plastic Roads: Dutch company VolkerWessels has developed a cool plastic road surface material made from recycled plastic like water bottles. Besides making good use of plastic waste, the roads have other environmental benefits: They require less maintenance, last longer, and don’t give off the CO2 that asphalt does. They have hollow chambers beneath so cables and pipes can easily be installed. The city of Rotterdam is considering using this material for its roads. We can’t wait to see how it fares.
2. Stone Paper: While this might cause lots of confusion during games of Rock Paper Scissors, there’s a new paper that is indeed made of stone, or at least mineral powder (and resin). The beauty of stone paper like TerraSkin is that not only does it not require trees, but its production also needs no water (and therefore doesn’t contribute to water pollution). The paper itself has some cool properties: It’s resistant to water and more durable than tree-derived paper (when you tug on the paper it has a bit of stretch to it), yet it biodegrades over time. Not everyone, however, agrees that stone paper is as eco-friendly as it claims.
3. Ecocapsule: Take a look at this little pod-like habitat… you’ll want to move right in! The Ecocapsule is a self-contained, self-sustaining cabin complete with electricity and running water. It’s powered by solar panels and a wind turbine and collects rainwater to filter so you can truly live off the grid. The company, based in the Slovak Republic, says that prices and preorders will be available towards the end of 2015.
4. White Goat: A Japanese company has developed an appliance, intended for office use, that recycles paper into toilet paper right there. The company says that it takes about 40 sheets of office paper, plus water and about 30 minutes of time, to create a roll of TP. The downside: It costs around $100,000. The upside: It’ll strain out the staplers.
5. Robotic Greenhouses: Now that water has been found on Mars, a robotic greenhouse, designed to grow plants on Mars, is even more relevant than ever. Le Petite Prince was a finalist for the Electrolux Design Lab competition a few years ago, and although it seems never to have made it into production, a newer robot greenhouse design is actually being prepped to be part of NASA’s next Mars rover. While this might not have much effect on the environment right now, it’s good to know that if my descendants need to abandon Planet Earth, we might have a way to make Mars home.
6. Turning Food Waste into Energy: A California waste treatment facility has been working on a longtime effort to generate energy from food scrap waste. The East Bay Municipal Utility District collects food scraps from local restaurants and markets and uses them to create renewable energy instead of sending them to the landfill. The pilot program has converted 20 to 40 tons of scraps a day into electricity via anaerobic digestion, and uses any leftover material for composting, or as fertilizer. The energy is used to power the plant, with excess being sold back to the grid or used as carbon credits. The facility hopes to expand the technology to other facilities.