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6 Technologies Emerging from the Climate Change Crisis

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that rings particularly true in the climate change era. The are many technologies transforming issues like pollution or food waste into assets or devising ways of changing our habits. These show how, as a species, we are gifted with great ingenuity. Even in the face of adversity. Or, as one of Patagonia’s founders says, it might be that there is a clear creative advantage to operating under certain constraints. Here are some uber-creative and quirky examples of alchemizing climate change issues into something useful.

Transforming Air Pollution into Art

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Pollution is a global killer. Yet, when processed in the right way, it can be turned into quality art-making material. In fact, one AirInk pen contains the equivalent of 40 to 50 minutes of car pollution. AirInk is the brainchild of Indian-born engineer Anirudh Sharma. While studying his Masters at MIT, Sharma was sent to India for a conference. There, he noticed the soot coming out of exhaustion pipes staining the walls. The engineer was inspired to make use of the high level of pollution plaguing Indian cities. After crowdfunding 41,000 dollars in a few months, he designed a device capable of capturing carbon particles. These are then processed, weeding out any heavy metals and toxins, making AirInk perfectly safe to use. Other than re-purposing something that would otherwise pose a risk to our health, AirInk is a great replacement for conventional black inks, which are made from fossil fuels and therefore add to CO2 emissions.

A Credit Card with a Carbon Limit

Everything we put in our shopping baskets has an impact on the environment. DO Black is the first credit card to limit your spending, not because of lack of funds but based on the level of CO2 caused by your shopping. Created by Swedish fin-tech startup Docotomy, this radical technology allows users to track the carbon footprint from each purchase. Consumers can access their consumption footprint in real-time on a mobile app. In an interview with Fast Company, co-founder Johan Pihl admits the intervention seemed radical. “But it’s the clearest way to illustrate the severity of the situation we’re in”, he stated. The Doconomy team trusts that Do Black has the potential to shift consumer behaviour. If we can make informed decisions about what we buy, we can consume more sustainably. Brands will have to respond to the change in consumer behaviour (hopefully) by turning an eco-friendly leaf!

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Biodegradable Seaweed Water Bottle

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Icelandic designer Ari Jonsson put his creativity to work to save the oceans. After hearing about the damage caused by the plastic invading our oceans, he created the first bio-organic container in the world. The container is made from agar, a natural, gelatin-like substance. It is sourced from some species of red algae, making a high-quality, eco-friendly material which biodegrades after use.
Other seaweed-based products worthy of notice are: Sumo, antibacterial and antioxidant-rich, biodegradable nappies made of seaweed and eucalyptus.
Marina tex, a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic film. Made from agar and fish scales, it takes 6-8 weeks to decompose in a home compost. This product was found to be stronger than LDPE (a common component of plastic bags.)

Single-Use Cutlery and Straws made of Avocado Stone

Avocado, or “Aguacate” as they call it in its native land, is a staple of the Mexican diet. The country is the world’s largest producer and exporter, supplying 45% of the international avocado market. Therefore, avocado stones are an abundant resource. Mexican-born Biofase has invented a way of extracting a substance from the stones to make single-use cutlery and straws. According to Bioplastics News, Biofase’s products require only 240 days to biodegrade in natural conditions (compost pile or buried). A time span which makes Biofase’s products one of the most biodegradable bioplastics on the market.

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Self-Regenerating Rubber Pavement

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Self-regenerating rubber pavement made from discarded tires are another great invention coming from Frida Kahlo’s homeland! The innovation won engineer student Israel Carmona the famous James Dyson Award. The young inventor claims he had wanted to solve the rainwater damage issue plaguing his hometown, the city of Monterrey. In addition, he aimed to re-purpose discarded rubber tires, a common waste product in Mexico. He created a putty by mixing and heating up the rubber from the tires with natural additives. When in contact with water the putty acts like self-regenerating sponges. It fills in any weather-induced cracks, which is an incredibly useful ecological fix to increasing rainwater damage.

Biodegradable Building Material from Cellulose

Neri Oxman, architect and engineer at MIT Boston, has been defined by many as a visionary “ahead of her time.” Her work is helping industries to shift from “consuming nature as a geological resource, to editing it as a biological one.” She founded the Mediated Matter Group, renown for their Nature-inspired, futuristic design creations. AguaHoja is a water-based, robotically-fabricated building material made from insects’ exoskeletons, trees and human bones. At the end of its life cycle, the material is programmed to biodegrade and reintegrate into the ecosystem. A truly innovative technology with tremendous eco-potential.

Could technology save the world? It might not constitute the silver bullet that will solve climate change for us. However, it could become our strongest ally if used correctly. Innovation can help us become more aware of the impact our behaviors have on the environment. Most importantly, the technologies above show us how important innovation is fostering a sense of empowerment. That, with a sense of hope for the future, are the most valuable assets we have.

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