5 Sustainability Initiatives That Can Change the World
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Climate change is inevitable, and people worldwide have had to adapt their lifestyles to meet the needs of the warming planet. In recent years there has been a push for more sustainable products and technologies that aim to reduce our carbon footprint and offer solutions to greenhouse gas emissions. Companies of all industries have taken this endeavor in stride by implementing sustainability initiatives from greener supply chains to transitioning operations to renewable energy.
However, these five innovators are starting from the ground up with fresh, original initiatives that face our climate crisis head-on.
1. The Seabin Project
Every year, about 14 million tons of plastic litter the ocean, equating to about 80% of all debris found from deep-sea sediments to every coastline. Most land pollutants entering the sea are runoff from nonpoint sources, such as industrial activity, agriculture, construction, vehicles, and oil or chemical spills. On the other hand, ocean-based plastic pollution usually derives from the fishing industry. Sustainability initiatives are looking to change that.
The Seabin Project began in 2013 when two water enthusiasts from Australia—Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski—realized their calling was to clean up the ocean. Two years later, they founded Seabin and went viral.
The Seabin is often referred to as a marine “trash skimmer” that sucks water and floating waste into a filtration catch bag. The Seabin V5 unit, which was designed to clean up marinas, ports and any body of water within a calm current, has some impressive statistics:
- Captures 1.4 tons of trash per year
- Can hold up to 41 pounds of waste in the catch bag, including microplastics
- Costs only $3 a day to operate
- Has been implemented in 23 countries, of which France, Spain, and the United States plan to install over 400 units
- Has received various awards for innovation, sustainability, and social impact
In addition to capturing everyday plastic debris, the Seabin has oil absorbent pads in its design to filter out surface oils and detergents commonly found in marinas.
So far, nearly 850 Seabins are currently floating in ports and marinas across the globe. Additionally, over 5.7 million pounds of debris have been captured since the Seabin Project began in 2017.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food waste accounts for approximately 30% to 40% of the food supply in the U.S.
Globally, food waste has dire implications for society, particularly food-insecure families. The environmental impacts of food waste are just as steep, with food production contributing 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainability initiatives like Demetra are trying to change that.
An Italian start-up company called Green Code aims to address the food waste crisis with Demetra, which is 100% natural and derived from plant extracts and is intended to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 6% of global food loss occurs at the post-harvesting stage. Much of this is due to the overtreatment of natural produce with synthetic pesticides and increased susceptibility to harmful pathogens.
Demetra prevents fruits and vegetables from ripening too quickly after harvesting while reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture on soil and water. Essentially, it can also cut food waste dramatically and decrease the carbon footprint of energy outputs for refrigeration.
3. Groasis Waterboxx
When you think of a desert, surely a lush, green landscape full of crops isn’t going to cross your mind. The Groasis Waterboxx is making it happen, though.
Invented by Dutch flower exporter Pieter Hoff, the Groassis is a device capable of growing plants in arid lands. After traveling the world for work, Hoff realized the consequences of desertification on irrigation and safe drinking water resources.
The United Nations (U.N.) estimates that 75 billion tons of fertile soil are lost to land degradation every year, negatively affecting 1.5 billion people.
The Groassis is made from recycled paper and can sprout seeds, incubate saplings, and irrigate plants. So far, two Groassis products have been implemented in case studies around the world:
- Growboxx plant cocoon: A biodegradable “intelligent bucket” that promotes plant growth in arid environments, including dunes, rocky terrains and mountains, deserts, eroded regions, and burned forests.
- Waterboxx plant cocoon: A plastic, reusable box that uses 90% less water than drip irrigation with a 90% growth rate of trees planted.
Currently, Groassis spans the globe in Morrocco, Mexico, Kuwait, Dubai, Jordan, and Colombia. North America has also begun using the Groassis in various riparian reforestation projects in Canada and a California-based urban farming project.
4. The Green Building Initiative
The Green Building Initiative (GBI) aims to reduce climate change impacts by helping to create sustainable buildings in the U.S. and Canada. It’s one of many sustainability initiatives helping lower North America’s carbon footprint.
Offering educational resources and green building certification for meeting federal building sustainability standards, the GBI focuses on the following objectives and principles:
- Reducing carbon emissions by turning to renewable energy resources
- Improve water conservation through recycled and alternative water sources
- Utilize green or raw materials in construction and design
- Aim for zero-waste
- Foster use of smart technologies
- Remain committed to ecological stewardship
- Create healthy indoor environments for occupants
- Encourage transparent reporting on sustainability impacts and achievements
The GBI has generated green building standards for new construction and existing buildings, and each maintains individual compliance requirements for Green Globes certification.
In 2020, the GBI recognized various sustainable projects that championed green building designs and operations. These projects included the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Marshall Flight Center Building in Alabama, the Ferguson Enterprises Headquarters HQ3 in Virginia, and the First National Bank (FNB) Tower in North Carolina.
Developed by Munich-based company Aqualonis, the FogCollector—formerly known as CloudFisher—can convert water vapor into clean water. Installed in mountainous or coastal regions, the FogCollector captures and harvests water from fog, creating a new water source for irrigation or drinking.
According to the U.N., about 1.2 billion people live with extreme water vulnerability, including 350 million children.
Due to climate change, water scarcity has become a devastatingly real prospect for certain world regions. Decades of misuse, inadequate waste management, and changing weather patterns—droughts, floods, and rising sea levels—have led to poor sanitation and contaminated drinking sources.
The FogCollector is carbon neutral and uses a “fog net” that acquires water droplets from the air. The fog net is constructed with synthetic and stainless steel mesh fabrics—durable enough to withstand wind speeds of 75 mph.
Currently, Tanzania, Morocco, and Bolivia implement the FogCollector, providing villages access to a viable, safe water supply. So far, the FogCollector has accomplished the following:
- Tanzania: Provides 14 schools with a total of 4,000 students with clean water so that children no longer have to travel long distances to collect it.
- Morocco: Provides 18 liters per day of drinking water to 1,600 people, up from 8 liters a day.
- Bolivia: Improved water shortages and contamination, particularly during the summer months. The FogCollectors could not withstand strong wind gusts in the Alto Veladero region, but the surrounding area has shown potential for harvesting water.
Sustainability Initiatives Pave the Way for Sustainable Living
Creating positive change for the planet begins with collaboration, engineering skills, and a sense of urgency. These start-ups understand that better than anyone. Although future impacts of climate change are uncertain, these five innovative technologies are opening doors for a more sustainable way of life.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.