Necessity is the mother of invention, and these innovations certainly fit the bill.
Innovation in clean energy, sustainable infrastructure and green solutions to environmental risks are the need of the hour. The burden on the world’s natural resources is immense, and it is high time we focused on renewal and diversification. While we’re only just tipping the iceberg, here are three innovations that are helping to create an eco-friendly future.
1. Tulip shaped wind turbines
Wind turbines are among the most efficient tools for producing clean and renewable energy. A single traditional offshore wind turbine can generate more than eight megawatts of electricity, enough to power about six homes with clean energy for more than a year. However, they have some drawbacks. First, traditional wind turbines require large tracts of open land to operate at maximum capacity. They are also extremely loud and pose significant risks to avian wildlife, such as birds and bats, with many considering them an eyesore in the countryside. These factors limit the widespread adoption of wind turbines in regular urban planning.
Founded in 2013, Dutch company Flower Turbines seeks to change all that for the better. She hopes to combine art and functionality by developing tulip-shaped wind turbines. When placed in small groups, turbines become highly efficient as their curved, petal-shaped rotors can push air into neighboring turbines, maximizing the potential of a single gust of wind by bouncing it back and forth. back. In addition, their vertical design makes them much quieter than traditional wind turbines.
To facilitate their integration into public and private spaces, the company offers tulip-shaped turbines in different sizes, colors and designs. In addition, due to the reduced surface area of the rotating blades, they are less likely to injure wild animals flying alongside them.
The company currently has turbines in three sizes available for purchase. The small-sized turbines are one meter (3.3 feet) tall and can fit anywhere. The medium size – the most popular choice – is three meters (9.8 feet), suitable for installations on flat roofs and concrete floors. The largest size is five meters (16.4 feet) tall and can create around three to five kilowatts of electricity in open spaces, such as parking lots or field borders.
2. Hair mats to clean up oil spills
Oil spills have presented some of the most devastating environmental hazards in history. Large spills can harm aquatic and bird life, and many chemical dispersants used to clean up these spills are also potentially fatal to humans. Although better infrastructure and safety controls have significantly reduced the number of major oil spills over the past decade, the problem remains.
A San Francisco-based nonprofit has created a revolutionary solution: human hair rugs. Matter Of Trust, founded by Lisa Gautier in 1998, produces mats from donated human and animal hair to absorb oil spills. The original idea of using hair to cleanse oil came from Phil McCrory, an Alabama hairstylist who correlated the hair he washed and cut and its ability to absorb oil. McCrory realized that hair he had to sweep off the salon floor that would otherwise have no use could be used to clean up oil spills. Gautier and her husband then collaborated with McCrory to bring the idea to life.
The first iteration of the idea was to stuff donated hair into nylon stockings to create a kind of hair buoy. The buoys would effectively absorb the oils but would become heavier and more difficult to retrieve. Then the organization moved on to creating felted rugs using donated hair and fur. Hair mats, which look like a large doormat, are more effective than buoys due to the increased surface area. With mats, a kilogram of hair can absorb up to five times its weight. The lack of a nylon coating also means less risk of leaving plastic in the water.
The organization has since diversified the use of hair mats to protect urban and rural waterways from oil spills from vehicle leaks, road spills, or other petrochemical-related accidents. Mats and hair rollers can be placed around storm drains, gutters, etc., to filter petrochemicals and debris from the water and thus prevent water contamination.
3) Hemp building blocks
For anyone who loves Lego sets, building blocks from Canadian company Just BioFiber might seem like an intriguing way to build their home.
The company makes sustainable and environmentally friendly building materials called hempcrete by creating a mixture of the wooden core of the hemp plant, limestone and water. It can harden to a consistency similar to concrete with the addition of CO2 and the removal of moisture.
Each block is integrated into a structural frame made of vegetable oil-based polyester. The frame protrudes from the top surface of the block and can be inserted into the holes of another block. This allows the blocks to be stacked like Lego blocks, creating a sturdy interlocking system. The blocks contain no sand and can be cut with band saws or other power tools.
Additionally, the blocks are lightweight, each weighing only about 25 pounds (11.33 kg). Therefore, they are easier to handle than traditional concrete blocks and help speed up the construction process. The company also claims a host of other benefits for hempcrete blocks, such as high insulating value and resistance to flames, insects and mold.
They are also more sustainable, as hemp fibers are naturally durable and sequester about four times more CO2 than trees. Also, compared to wood, where a tree needs to be around 20-80 years old to be usable, a hemp crop only takes 90-120 days to be fully grown and ready to use. Plus, you can break up the hemp blocks to compost the hemp part of your garden!
On top of that, the company claims that building with its hemp blocks will make the entire construction process (e.g. raw material extraction, transportation, and installation) carbon negative, which means that it absorbs more CO2 than it releases.
However, hemp blocks cannot be used underground because they are biodegradable and can break down in the ground. To combat this, Just BioFiber has designed waterproof foam blocks made from recycled plastics or soybean oil.
Innovations like the ones featured in this article are a major part of standardizing best practices that put our environment and our future first. Coupled with the growing popularity of ESG investing, we can expect to see more companies developing technological solutions to conserve and preserve our environment.
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