3 Sustainable Ideas of the Future
How can the world be greener? We’ve all heard that question a million times, and some of the answers are quite well known, such as using renewable energy, getting rid of palm oil products, and replace single use plastic with reusable alternatives. But what other ideas are out there? Below are three of the more interesting ideas that we at Rust and Fray would like to share with you.
Nature is all about circles. Plants breathe in the air we breathe out, then produce what we can breath in. Whales bring nitrogen and other nutrients from the bottom of the ocean floor back up to the surface. We can all probably name many more examples of this, but what’s truly remarkable is how little humanity has tried to adopt this idea. Most industrial production today operates on linear systems of product to consumer to landfill. Recycling can help with this, but often post-recycled products are worse materials than the virgin materials and so recycling mainly justs makes the linear production system longer. A true closed-loop system would never need new material or a landfill, as the waste from a discarded product is all the new material that’s needed. This may sound like it’s a tall order, but in some industries closed-loop production is much closer than you’d think it be.
The fashion industry has made great strides in developing closed loop systems. While the big names in fashion still operate almost entirely off of linear systems, many other brands are developing the technologies, methods, and ideas to make closed-loop production a reality. Brands like Rust and Fray and Tonlé currently are Upcycling, meaning they buy scrap material from clothing factories and craft that into their bags and clothing, respectively. Lenzing Fibers has developed a textile called Tenecil which is a wood based synthetic fiber where the solvent used to make it can be recovered and reused near indefinitely, so the only factory input is the (sustainably sourced) wood and the only output is the fabric. Several companies are now designing clothing with longevity in mind. Not just meaning durable, but also easy to disassemble for quick repairs and to help recover the raw materials for reuse when it’s worn down. There are a huge number of innovations and processes taking place. No one method or technology is going to change the industry overnight, but through collaboration, continual invention, and through educating the public about these options, the fashion industry has the very real potential of being one of the first industries to close the loop.
We all know that going local is better for the environment, but city dwellers may find that locally grown food is a lot more local than they’d think. Growing food within a city not only drastically reduces the amount of greenhouse gases created from transporting the food, but also increases access to fresh vegetables for communities in urban “food deserts,” which are lower income areas in a city that have very limited access to grocery stores and inexpensive healthy food options.
Now, when you think of Urban Agriculture you may be thinking about rooftop farms and community gardens, and both of those things are part of the equation. But the future of urban agriculture involves vertical farming. There are many many potential benefits to farming vertically, from not needing pesticides because it’s indoors, to way more efficient use of space, to not having to worry about weather, and so on. There is even work on producing hydroponic (nutrient water instead of soil) vertical farm where the “fertilizer” is made naturally from onsight indoor fish farms, making for entirely closed-loop water usage while also decreasing the environmental impacts of the fish farm. The big remaining hurdle is to make sure that the electricity costs of running indoor farming is kept to a minimum, but between vertical greenhouses and increases in lighting efficiency, the energy savings are really starting to add up. Read more facts about urban farming here.
We tend to think sustainability in terms of garbage, fossil fuel consumption, and factory waste, but did you know Air Conditioning units contribute majorly to global warming, both with their electricity use and their manufacturing? Or that according to the EPA, buildings account for nearly 40% of energy use in the U.S.? In order to counteract the effects of global warming, we need to think creatively and be environmentally conscious in everything we do. Thankfully, plenty of architects have gotten the memo, and now sustainable architecture is a rapidly growing new trend.
Installing solar panels on your roof has long been one way to make your home more sustainable, and solar panel shingles are starting to come down in price enough to be commercially viable, but there are still plenty of other ideas for sustainable homes out there. Solar powered water heaters have already been developed, and recycled building materials are being experimented with. There’s also the idea of passive design strategies to keep energy use down. Instead of relying almost entirely on AC and heating, design the building to maximize ventilation and the sun’s heat respectively. And simply choosing better locations to develop homes in the first place helps too. And if you want to get in on making your home more sustainable but don’t have the time or ability to remodel, something as easy as choosing an alternative plant to replace the traditional lawn can go a huge way towards helping the environment.
The future is in environmentalism, and the future is rapidly becoming the now. While there seems to be an endless barrage of bad news in regards to the environment, keep your chin up and know that there are people out there dedicated to changing the world for the better.