Sustainability isn’t a fringe issue anymore.
Thanks to heightened awareness and public education efforts, more and more people recognize the importance of reducing carbon emissions and shifting to clean energy sources. Climate change deniers are in the minority.
Luckily, big companies are catching on when it comes to climate change.
According to Fast Company, Apple, Bank of America, Facebook, Google, and Walmart are among the major corporations that have committed to moving to 100% renewable power. Hundreds of others have adopted internationally-agreed clean energy targets to reducing greenhouse gasses. Half of the 2016 Fortune 500 companies have set targets to reduce greenhouse gases, increase energy efficiency, or make greater use of renewable energy sources.
In total, 72% of consumer-facing companies have set targets for clean energy. Other industries are also doing well, with 60% of real estate and 57% of IT companies setting at least one target.
Lance Pierce, president of CDP North America (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), says public pressure is a factor in this change. “There is a lot of awareness among consumers and a lot of demand, and companies are responsive to that,” he told Fast Company.
For these companies, fighting climate change is becoming a vital part of their corporate responsibility.
But not all industries are on board. Energy companies are notably lagging when it comes to setting targets. In fact, the number of companies with one or more energy target has fallen from 25% three years ago to a dismal 11% today.
Pierce says many energy companies claim there needs to be a “level playing field”, such as a national or international climate agreement, that holds all energy companies to the same standard. In other words, they’re waiting for the government to step in and force their hand before they change how they do business.
Unfortunately, with the current administration, fighting climate change is not a priority.
Still, this report is a bright spot over overall. While the Trump Administration is working to undo much of its predecessor’s clean energy and climate regulations, American corporations are moving in the opposite direction.
Solar power is on the rise, and countries around the world are catching on.
More governments are investing in the production of solar energy than ever before. Solar tech has advanced in recent years, causing a massive decline in the price of solar energy. Now, solar power is cost-competitive and reliable. There is promising data suggesting that solar can someday match or even outperform traditional sources like coal and gas.
Of course, some countries are ahead of the game. Can you guess which five countries produced the most solar energy in 2016? The answer may surprise you — especially number one.
Let’s look at the top 5 countries for solar energy.
When it came to solar energy, Germany used to be on top. It once produced more gigawatts (GW) of solar power than any other country in the world — until 2015. Now, other nations have caught up and pushed Germany back to the number five position.
Regardless, Germany is still a world leader in renewables and one of the top countries for solar energy. The country’s Energiewende strategy has it aiming obtain at least 60% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Last year, Germany broke its own records for the production of solar energy.
India is at the cusp of a solar energy boom. Since 2011, India has made massive strides in is renewable energy production thanks in part to investment from the World Bank. India’s total solar energy capacity is expected to grow from 5 GW in 2015 to a whopping 57 GW by 2020. The nation is on target to produce 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.
Japan was an early adopter of solar generation, and it continues to be an innovator in this sector. It is home to the Solar Ark, one of the world’s largest solar buildings, which boasts over 5,000 solar panels. The country aims to meet at least 10% of its energy demands with solar by 2050.
Yes, it’s true — the USA misses the top spot on this list. Surprised? After all, the country has an abundance of tech, talent, and just the right environmental conditions for wide-scale adoption of solar energy. Why shouldn’t it be number one?
Unfortunately, there has always been a sharp political divide when it comes to renewable energy in the USA. And with the Trump administration threatening to withdraw from the global action plan on climate change, solar faces an uncertain future in America.
Still, the United States produces the second-most solar energy of any country in the world. It is home to some of the world’s largest solar installations, and many states have set high renewable energy goals. Whatever happens in the political realm, the United States is likely to remain one of the top countries for solar energy and has the potential to claim that number one spot someday.
Given China’s notorious environmental record, you may be surprised to learn that China produces the most solar energy in the world. In fact, it leaves the other countries on the list in the dust! China produces a massive 130.5 GW to the USA’s 85.3 GW.
China bumped Germany from the top spot on the list in 2015, when it expanded its solar capacity by 81%. Now, it has set the ambitious goal of generating 20% of its power using renewable sources by 2030.
When it comes to renewable energy, Canada should be on top of the world.
Canadians are gifted with substantial natural resources that can be used to produce clean energy, from rivers to wind, biomass to solar, geothermal to ocean energy. Several Canadian cities have become a hotbed of innovation technology start-ups. And Canada is mostly free from the skepticism surrounding climate change and greenhouse gases that pervades American politics. Simply put, Canada is in a perfect position to harness these resources and be a world leader in renewable energy.
However, renewable energy sources only provide about 18.9% of Canada’s total energy supply. And according to a new report, Canada is falling behind in the world of clean energy tech.
Christopher Barrington-Leigh, an assistant professor at the School of Environment at McGill University, says Canada is in a renewable energy paradox.
Though the land is rife with valuable resources, most of it lies in distant territories that are not connected to the electrical grid or near population centres. Keep in mind that 90% of Canadians live within one hour of the United States/Canada border. In other words, much of Canada’s potential renewable energy sources are out of sight and, for many, out of mind.
At the same time, Canada is what the assistant professor describes as an “energy hog.” We consume the most energy heating our homes throughout the winter months. This is an inevitable fact of living in Canada, and it puts a great deal of pressure on our electrical grid. The argument for shifting away from powerful-but-polluting energy sources to lighter renewable resources is difficult in this context.
That’s the world within which Canada’s clean tech sector operators. On top of that, this sector is having its own problems right now.
The heart of the problem is this: researching and developing innovative green technology is expensive.
According to Analytica Advisors, most Canadian green energy firms are stuck in unprofitable markets without access to financing that would enable them to meet demand. This industry pays comparatively high interest rates. Debt markets, including Canada’s big banks, are not open to most clean-tech firms.
While the government committed to investing in clean energy tech in the 2017 federal budget, the money won’t start flowing until 2019. This cleans Canadian clean energy firms in a tough spot.
The report concludes with the suggestion that the government focus not only on attracting centure capital to Canada’s clean energy sector, but to ensure that the government sets the stage for a successful clean energy market and supports infrastructure that takes full advantage of these innovations.
In a few short years, shipping containers have become the basis of a new, ultra-sustainable style of architecture (aka cargotecture, a portmanteau of cargo and architecture.) It’s not hard to see why.
Shipping containers are tough, durable, and widely available for very reasonable cost. Used shipping containers sell for as little as $1,000. And repurposing an old shipping container saves over 7,000 pounds of steel from landfills.
There are other benefits to using a shipping container as building blocks. Since all containers have the same width, and come in standardized lengths and heights, you can easily apply a design across multiple homes. Builders can easily stack and combine them into a larger structure.
These homes are also easy to move from place to place. This gives homeowners the freedom to live just about anywhere – in the deep woods shrouded by trees, at the edge of an ocean-side cliff, or nestled in a valley.
Designers are already doing amazing things with shipping containers. Now, one group of builders is taking this form of architecture to the next level with a sustainable, ultra-green, off-the-grid home.
Sustainer Homes, a start-up company from the Netherlands, has developed a prototype for an innovative shipping container home that runs exclusively on environmentally-friendly resources.
The completely self-sufficient house fits a bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen and living room into just 323 square feet of space. The interior is lined with wood-free ECOboard panels, which are made from recycled farm waste like grass and straw. All the walls and ceilings use a non-toxic, plant-based paint.
What makes the Sustainer Homes model remarkable is the fact that it is completely self-reliant. There is no need to connect to the energy grid, water, or sewer system. Instead, miniature wind turbines and solar panels power the entire house from top to bottom, and a series gutters gather rainwater. Wastewater from the sink, shower, and toilet runs through a plant-based filter six times before being sent back into the ground, where it dissolves naturally.
It may exist off-the-grid, but the home is far from being low-tech. Sustainer Homes plans to rig their houses with an onboard computer, smart thermostat, and 4G LTE modem for high speed internet.
A single home, complete with all the amenities, costs just $112,700 CDN.
Sustainer Homes sees their sustainable shipping container homes as the answer to the housing crisis. Like young Canadians, young people in the Netherlands are struggling to pay rising rents or enter an exorbitant housing market. Shipping container homes could provide an affordable and environmentally-alternative.
Not only are they less expensive to build, but the homes save the homeowner money. After all, a self-sustaining home has no water, electricity, or heating bills.
“Independence and sustainability define the home of tomorrow,” say the Sustainer Homes team. “We’re pioneering in all aspects of future living: modular, mobile, smart.”
Currently, the Sustainer Homes are only available in the Netherlands, as they’re built to match the Dutch climate and comply with Dutch building codes.
It’s only the size of a waste bin, but this mini power plant has the potential to turn household waste into ready-to-use fuel.
The Home Energy Recovery Unit (HERU) was developed by researchers at the Brunel University in London, England. Using a process called pyrolysis, HERU turns household waste into energy-rich liquid, char, or synthesized gas fuel. The unit connects to the water and drainage system of a house and uses the fuel to heat water. The resulting gas is then cleaned before being vented into the atmosphere, creating a sustainable renewable energy source.
Not only can HERU eliminate waste, it can help the homeowner cut energy bills. The unit uses just 1 kWh of power for every 2.5 kWh of energy it produces. According to the inventors, this could save families up to 15% in fuel.
What makes this tech truly green is its potential to address two pressing environmental problems at once: waste management and fuel production.
“Waste management is one of the most crucial challenges developed countries face,” said co-inventor, Dr. Hassam Jouhara. “Rising fuel costs leave so many households with the difficult decision of whether to eat or to heat their home and countries worldwide are being urged to cut carbon consumption. The vision is to solve this global problem and slash energy bills while producing energy for heating from waste that is otherwise a burden on local authorities and households.”
Installing a waste-powered generator would cut down on landfill waste and reduce reliance on other energy sources. The creators, who are based in the U.K., believe it could cut the U.K.’s carbon footprint for waste disposal by over 70%. While the tech hasn’t hit the consumer market, HERU could be a hero for green energy.
Want to turn your roof into a giant solar panel? Tesla’s solar-powered roof shingles are designed to do just that.
Tesla, Inc. acquired the solar panel maker SolarCity Corporation back in November 2016. Since then, there had been little news from either Tesla or SolarCity about the company’s touted solar roof shingles – until last week.
On March 27th, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suddenly and casually announced via Twitter that the company will begin taking pre-orders for its solar shingles in April.
Casual as it may have been, the news immediately sparked massive interest in the product. After all, while traditionally solar panels are powerful and eco-friendly, they tend to be large and unsightly. Tesla’s solar shingles are designed to blend seamlessly onto an existing structure.
That’s an entirely subjective view, of course. But it’s typical of the confidence we’ve come to know from Elon Musk. And it’s not his only big claim about solar shingles – he also says they last twice as long and cost less to install than their old-fashioned counterparts.
SolarCity makes its solar shingles from panels of quartz glass, which come in four different styles.
The tiles integrate into a roof in three layers. The top layer of impact-resistant glass is designed to protect the sensitive bits from weather. The solar cell lies at the very bottom layer, where it stores energy from the sun shining down from above. Sandwiched between them is a layer of film that makes the tiles nearly invisible from street level.
Tesla and SolarCity are not the first to try their hand at solar roof technology. Whether they can succeed where others have failed will depend largely on cost. Cost is the main reason previous contenders struggled to market their product. Solar roofs have been a dream of solar enthusiasts for years, but the average person simply couldn’t afford to retrofit their entire roof.
Even if solar shingles cost less than the typical roof tile, installing them still means financing completely new roof. Traditional solar panels, on the other hand, can be installed one at a time based on the homeowner’s budget.
Consumer Reports estimates that a 3,000 square foot solar roof will cost an average of $73,500, whereas the average solar panel installation costs between $25,000 and $35,000.
Solar roofs could represent a technical and design breakthrough in the world of renewable energy. But that’s only if Tesla can get the product off the ground.
There are many ways for a household to become eco-friendly and reduce the amount of carbon footprint they put out into the environment. One of these ways is living in an eco-friendly house, also known as a greenhouse. An eco-friendly house is basically a home that is able to sustain itself. The energy it uses often comes from solar energy. Obviously, the smaller the house is, the more eco-friendly it is. Bungalows are one of the best ways to ensure that your home is eco-friendly due to their smaller size, which in turn uses less power to run the entire house. You can have solar panels on the roof and have the house be completely sustainable just through that. You want unique and organized bungalow floor plans that can also be comfortable to live in which is why there are many different options you can make to ensure that your house is more eco-friendly.
Some things to think about when renovating or building your eco-friendly house is where you’ll be able to get the energy from. For example, place your windows on the south side so that sunlight can stream into the house and heat it. Instead of using air conditioning, open your windows in the summer to enjoy a breeze from the wind. Sometimes, it’s just the little things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
Other things you can do is recycle properly as well as use the compost container. Instead of driving to work, car pool or even ride your bike. It makes for a good exercise in the morning and also helps keep the environment cleaner. If you’ve got the funds, consider in investing in an electric car. Not only do you reduce fuel waste, you’re also saving more on gas.
There are many little things a person can do to fulfill a green lifestyle. If you want to make a big change, start with your home and vehicle. You can also worry less with these bungalow floor plan designs if you don’t want to renovate your home. By starting the change with your home, your lifestyle will gradually also become greener. All it takes is just a little push and you’ll be saving our environment one step at at time.