We live in a time of incredible innovations. Technology is developing faster than we can keep up with it. Futuristic inventions may conjure up ideas of robots and virtual reality headsets, but it’s the small scale eco-innovations which may shape our future the most. Here are some amazing projects that could make a big difference on how we interact with our environment.
Wait, what? Mayo? Yep! Just Mayo is produced by Hampton Creek, a technology company. Hampton Creek researches how to utilize global plant proteins to make food healthier, more affordable, and of course — more sustainable. They’ve developed a program which screens more than 400,000 plant proteins from around the world and matches the protein to replace a less-than-ecological alternative. For instance, their flagship product, Just Mayo, replaces egg with Canadian Yellow Peas!
Hold onto your taste buds: Hampton Creek has just released a product called Just Cookie Dough AND cookies, too! YUM! Okay, but exactly how does this save the world? Animal agriculture contributes 18 percent to greenhouse gas emissions — more than all transportation in the world combined. Replacing animal proteins with plant-based proteins can have an enormous impact on preserving the ozone layer.
It’s estimated that by the year 2050, 80 percent of the world’s population will be living in condensed urban areas. So what happens to agriculture when we run out of farmland? There isn’t just a problem with space — non-sustainable farming methods can wreak havoc on the soil, causing unforeseen natural disasters. Remember the famous Dust Bowl from the ‘30s? In part, it was attributed to poor agricultural practices. Vertical farming could solve a future agricultural crisis.
So, what is it? Vertical farms use aeroponics, hydroponics, and aquaponics to grow soil-free crops in urban locations, including skyscrapers. This is how it could be a major game changer for the environment:
- Farmland could be dedicated to growing more trees, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
- Growing crops within the city would reduce the emissions caused by transporting crops to where demand is highest
- Future designs for skyscraper farms would be 100 percent self-sufficient Aquaponics, hydroponics, and aeroponics traditionally yield more crops, helping solve hunger and freeing up the market to reduce the prices of organic produce — which provides a competitively priced alternative for cheap fast food
Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut designed the “Dragonfly — a theoretical proposal for a giant vertical farm in New York. If built, Dragonfly would span 132 floors and 600 vertical meters.It would provide 28 different types of agricultural supplies, including fruit, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy. Running off wind and solar power, it would also be completely sustainable. Dragonfly is a pretty neat idea, but the project — originally conceived in 2009 — has yet to get off the ground.
LA Urban Farms in Santa Monica is the first business to execute aeroponics to some degree, using vertical farming methods on rooftops to provide locally grown crops.
We might not be able to live under the sea just yet, but algae might be the ocean’s secret superpower. In addition to using algae to create green biofuels, it can also be used in lightbulbs! Designer Gyula Bodonyi created the algaebulb, which uses algae to power an LED light. It doesn’t just produce light — it also sucks in harmful carbon dioxide and spits it out as oxygen.
Over the pond in France, a startup has designed a streetlight powered by algae. Like the algaebulb, the battery is powered by the photosynthesis of the algae — meaning that it requires no electricity to run. The street lamp also absorbs one ton of carbon every year. With one tree absorbing 48 pounds of carbon in a year, one algae street lamp would absorb more carbon than 96,000 trees.
Organic Burial Pods
I don’t know about you, but I hate visiting graveyards. Wouldn’t it be so much nicer to take a walk through the forest? That’s what an organic burial pod is. Shaped like an egg, your body is put into the fetal position and then covered in a biodegradable, egg-shaped sack. Then, the tree of your choice is planted on top of your burial egg. The materials from the egg feed the tree, and voila! You’re now a tree in the afterlife. Cemeteries would become sacred forests where your loved ones could nurture your memory in a botanical wonderland. To bastardize the immortal words of Tupac: don't bury me a G. Bury me a tree.
So how it does it help save the environment? In order for a coffin to be produced, a tree must be cut down. It serves a purpose for only a few days, and then it’s discarded in the earth. As you know, trees are imperative to maintain healthy air around us. Rather than destroy the environment in death, we could add to it — and become a tree in the process.
The Shoe That Grows
The Shoe That Grows is proof that one person can make a big difference. Kenton Lee wasn’t a designer, nor an inventor. But when he saw a little girl in Kenya with shoes that were far too small for her, he had an idea. What if he could design a shoe that would grow with children in developing nations? So he did. With the help of Oregon-based shoe design company Proof Of Concept, Lee designed a durable shoe that could last children up to five years and five sizes. The shoes are lightweight and easy to transport — meaning that hundreds of children could be helped with just one shipment.
The Ocean Plastic Running Shoe
Adidas took debris floating in the ocean and used a 3D printer to create these running shoes. In a partnership with Parley For The Oceans, this is an amazing way to clear up the floating plastic junk island in the Atlantic. This process also creates footwear without outsourcing to sweatshops, and it limits the use of other industrial practices that are bad for the environment.
A Forest In A Cup
Polystyrene cups were a huge source of pollution back in their heyday. Polystyrene never breaks down, so a cup used for twenty minutes will survive until the end of Earth’s days. Needless to say, it’s horrific for the environment. Luckily, polystyrene has been slowly filtered out of the food industry — but this little cup takes recycling to a new level.
A startup in California named Reduce. Reuse. Grow. vowed to turn trash into treasure. They’ve created a coffee cup embedded with seeds. Once you’ve finished using it for your beverage, you plant your trash and watch it turn into a tree.
These are some examples of innovative thought leaders providing real solutions to some of the environment’s most pressing problems. We still have a long way to go before we can make a positive impact on our ecology, but with the help of great minds, we can make tomorrow a brighter place.