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How can technology save the environment?

Technology can help reduce emissions, harmful elements and more.

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Some people think that to reduce our environmental impact, we should focus on reducing the resources we use and conserving the natural environment. We can’t depend on technology and the economy to help us, they say.

Others believe that the best tactic is to press forward with technological innovation, and eventually, tech advances will help us clean up our environmental messes. They say we shouldn’t hinder technology, but rather, allow economic forces to create a solution to our sustainability woes.

The ideal strategy is, realistically, probably somewhere in between these opposing viewpoints. We don’t need to go entirely back to nature, but we should keep conservation in mind. In addition, technology may come to play a major role in conservation. In fact, it already has. Here are three ways tech can help save the environment.

1. Replace harmful products

Many of the products and technologies we use can harm the environment. When we started using them, we might not have been aware of their potential impact. Even once we do figure it out, though, those old habits prove difficult to break.

For example, The New York Times says we produce about 300 million tons of plastic each year, much of which ends up in landfills, floating in oceans and littering the ground. Plus, the chemicals in plastics can find their way into the environment and harm human and animal health.

Today, new materials are emerging that could replace this ubiquitous material.

Plastic-like materials made from natural sources biodegrade and don’t contain nasty chemicals. How Stuff Works covers how Polylactic acid, or PLA, is produced using lactic acid generated via starch fermentation. Most often, it comes from corn, but you can also make it from wheat and sugarcane.

Plastic is harmful to the environment but now there are plastic-like materials that do not contain dangerous elements. (Source)

2. Prevent emissions

Electricity, heating and cooling and transportation are some of the biggest producers of emissions that contribute to global warming. However, new, eco-friendlier technologies are now gaining ground on older, dirtier fuel sources.

Natural gas, for instance, has outpaced coal in terms of energy production in recent years. While natural gas is cleaner than coal, even more sustainable energy sources have gained popularity as well. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind produce no emissions and don’t require the use of finite resources.

Due in part to technological advancements, the solar industry has enjoyed an average 68 percent annual growth rate over the last ten years. The amount of electricity generated by wind has more than doubled since 2010.

And those are just two examples of these technologies. Electric cars, energy storage, carbon sequestration and many more are also changing the game.

3. Increase efficiency

Not only are we changing how we get our energy, but we’re also learning to use it more efficiently through the use of smart technology.

In the home, smart thermostats, lights, and other devices can automatically manage energy use to save consumers money and reduce emissions. A smart thermostat, for instance, uses data to figure out how to run more efficiently and learns your personal preferences.

It may also use geofencing technology to detect when you’re on your way home and turn on the heat when you get close. That way, it’s off while you’re gone, but your house will still feel comfortable when you return.

According to ENERGY STAR, if everyone used a smart thermostat certified by the program, we could avoid 13 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions and save a total of $740 million annually.

Tech can be valuable in the quest to save the environment

Eco-friendly technology is poised to have a significant impact on the environment, as well as the economy, in the near future. It can help us reduce our emissions, the amount of waste we produce and the amount of money we spend.

While tech might not be the only factor in saving the environment, it will likely play a central role. It will also continue to change the way we live our daily lives for years to come.

 

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DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

 

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance technical writer and the editor of Schooled By Science, a blog dedicated to discussing the latest scientific news and discoveries. She regularly contributes to IMPO Magazine, American Machinist and Cerasis. When she isn't writing, Megan enjoys going to the gym, watching MARVEL movies or curling up with a good book.

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