*Updated October 2022
Over the years, sustainable technology has come a long way. From allowing humans to make better use of time to developing the way we communicate, all the way up to promoting ease of mobility, technology shaped the dynamics of our everyday lives.
But technology hasn’t always been viewed in a good light. Where there are negative implications, innovations are criticized rather than lauded. Because of this, in the process of developing new innovative technology, sustainability is now a core factor to be considered.
In this post, we’ll tackle what sustainable technology entails and how it should ideally affect our future. We’ll then go over 9 ways technology is reshaping sustainability. Let’s get right to it.
What sustainability means
In simple terms, sustainability means meeting human demands without jeopardizing the future generation’s ability to meet their own necessities. It means today’s innovations shouldn’t compromise our environment’s capacity to provide natural, social, and economic resources for the future. All over the world, steps have been taken to plan and set targets to make our habitat more sustainable by 2050.
2050 might seem too far in the future, but without setting sustainability plans today, it might just be too late then. Some ideas and goals initially seemed too far-fetched, but with the potential that the development of technology is bringing, they don’t seem as ambitious as they once were.
As mentioned at the outset, innovative technology is changing our daily dynamics, making us move faster and more efficiently. Unprecedented challenges are coming our way, but now with the capability to contain negative implications, sustainable technology has now turned out to be a catalyst for a sustainable future.
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But again, it's not all just about the environment. Promoting environmental sustainability entails changing societal practices as well. This involves everyday habits like conserving water, turning off unused lights, and practicing recycling. With technological advances, you can do these things with just a few taps on your phone or through a touch of a button.
Sustainable technology promotes revenue
In one way or another, everybody wants to take part in going green. And companies are increasingly adapting to sustainable business practices in order to do so.
This can involve patronizing products and services that promote environmental sustainability. Even for brands that see sustainability as not integral to their core values, say a costume brand or an FBA selling tool, putting sustainability in the picture will impact those companies’ revenues.
Sports equipment brands like Gili and digital services like InflowInventory have found incorporating sustainability into their marketing strategy easy as they promote their sustainable manufacturing or technology development. By incorporating sustainable business practices, you make your brand more appealing to the consumers and in turn, helps to increase your revenue.
In a 2019 survey conducted by CGS, a business application global provider, it was confirmed that customers are leaning toward products and services that promote environmental sustainability. In the survey, it’s been found out that consumers are willing to pay 35% more if the brand promotes environmental sustainability.
It has also been found that sustainable business practices account for 28% of the consumers' brand loyalty. That’s more than a quarter of a population, showing how significant environmental sustainability can be as part of your brand’s core values. Now that we’ve established how essential sustainable technology is, let’s move forward and go deeper into the 9 ways it has reshaped sustainability.
1. Supply chain responsibility
A supply chain involves supplying materials for goods, manufacturing them, and distributing them to consumers. It deals with the storage and transit of raw materials to production. In simple terms, a supply chain includes everything from a product’s point of origin to the consumer's hands.
Efficiency in operation has come a long way. The processes involved in between used to involve a lot of paperwork, which, of course, means cutting down a lot of trees to make up for the demand. But with the development of technology, processes like expense reimbursements and work time tracking can now go paperless. Monitoring tracked on paper can now be done in online software and stored on databases.
Streamlining the process to limit the use of paper doesn’t just cut down the use of trees (pun intended) but it also cuts down on pollution from manufacturing them, waste, and carbon footprint. In a study made in 2014 by Catalog Spree and PaperKarma, they calculated that if the US goes digital and cuts down paper use in offices even by just 10%, it will minimize greenhouse gas emission as much as 1.45 million metric tons.
To put that into perspective, it’s like taking off 280,000 cars on the road for the whole year. Not just that, tracking the processes electronically also means promoting responsible sourcing of the raw materials used.
With the emergence of tracking technology, supply chain systems can now monitor where the natural resources needed in manufacturing are coming from. They can do a background check if the source is following environmental protocols set by the government, and if not, are making the needed adjustments.
2. Energy efficiency
Energy efficiency involves performing tasks using less energy to minimize waste. This will result in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering energy costs, and reducing the demand for importing energy.
Alternative and renewable energy technologies make these advances happen. Whether it’s in the commercial setting or the residential one, there are tons of opportunities to improve the use of energy.
Let’s start simple, think of air conditioners. A report by TechRepublic showed that simply setting the air conditioner to 75° instead of 74° reduced the energy consumption by 30,000 kilowatts and thereby saving a store $3,000.
A big issue for offices is forgetting to turn lights off when not in use. A solution is using smart switches connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) to let you set when to turn lights on and off remotely. Timers and motion sensors can also be used to control when the lights should be turned on and off.
In most cases, employees, especially in an office setting, have to plug in more than one device or fitness centers where equipment needs to be turned on and off constantly between training sessions. Having a power strip handy will allow them to conserve energy since they can determine which devices are in use that need a power source and which ones can be turned off. Individual switches for these plugged-in devices will ensure energy is only flowing to devices that need it.
Many buildings are now designed to integrate renewable energy technologies. This includes using LED light bulbs, upgrading insulation and weatherization that require less energy from heaters or air conditioners, and using energy-efficient appliances.
Energy generation and distribution
Perhaps one of the most functional sustainable technologies is how many heat and power systems are designed to catch “waste” heat from factories and power plants and recycle it to provide cooling, heating, and even hot water to adjacent facilities and buildings.
Another innovative technology I’d like to highlight here is the development of “smart grids''. Smart grids integrate communication technology to electric distribution and transmission systems.
Solar panels used to be expensive. In recent times though, it’s starting to become increasingly affordable that even average households can afford its installation and use so they become less dependent on energy companies.
3. Enhances in predictive maintenance
Normally, you’d schedule maintenance manually for machines. With the current advancements, machines are now designed to let you know when they need servicing, repairs, or replacements.
A gadget is linked to the Internet of Things (IoT) and utilizes machine learning to anticipate when it will need servicing. With this, you can extend your machine’s life to its intended lifespan and prevent you from wasting resources on a machine that is close to the end of its life.
It also ensures machines will run much smoother and will be more energy efficient. By the end of its lifespan when servicing will already be unproductive, you can start dismantling the machine to utilize what can still be recycled.
Looking at the bigger picture, keeping machines in their best condition all the way up to their intended lifespan will mean there’s no need to constantly replace them. This means unnecessary production that causes pollutants will be minimized and waste materials broken or end-of-life equipment will be minimized.
4. Recycling innovations
More and more tech companies are committed to creating products that promote environmental sustainability, putting it in as part of their growth hacking initiatives.
Take Apple as an example. It has revealed that its current version of MacBooks is made from 100% recycled aluminum, and possibly other Apple products as well. At the research stage of a product, sustainability should be a primary consideration keeping in mind how its production or its features and functions will become environmentally friendly.
Many companies, even online companies like a digital marketing agency or web development agency, even put a recycling program in place to encourage sustainable business practices and motivate all members of the company to take part in its sustainability initiatives.
One telecom company promoting the use of online payments put a tree planting project in place where users of the platform get points for making online transactions that help lessen the need for physical receipts, which means less paper consumption.
5. Sustainable development with IoT
The World Economic Forum states that IoT will play an essential role in making sure that the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goals will be met. This innovative technology, which involves an ecosystem of devices, appliances, and sensors that interact with each other and connect to the internet allows for a continuous collection of data to be tracked and monitored. IoT applied in this case assists in checking the compliance of sectors involved with the sustainability goals.
Almost having the same principles as smart grids, smart meters measure the energy consumption of a building. The information used to be only sent to the energy supplier, but now, consumers get access to the data wirelessly through low-energy radio frequency waves. Newer versions of smart meters also measure efficiency, so businesses can regulate their daily electrical usage by fixing issues or modifying usage habits.
Air and water quality monitoring
IoT also promotes corporate responsibility by ensuring there is quality air breathed by their employees. With quality air, the “sick building” syndrome can be prevented. Employees will be healthier and more productive.
IoT senses common pollutants like carbon monoxide and other volatile organic compounds to prevent health risks for all people involved. As for water monitoring, the IoT can detect water leakage via dynamic water consumption monitoring where steps can then be taken to reduce unnecessary consumption and waste.
6. Big data analytics to increase environmental sustainability
Simply, big data analytics is about gathering large pools of data to be analyzed and used to inform companies about environmental concerns so they can be addressed promptly and appropriately.
The insights gathered in the analysis will ideally give a general picture of the overall impact of certain actions and initiatives. It also calculates the severity of potential environmental risks so steps can be taken to mitigate them.
As an example, an interactive water-risk mapping tool developed for the World Resource Institute called Aqueduct is used to monitor and calculate water risk in any location around the world. Big data also promotes environmental sustainability by showing the demand for food, energy, and other resources as climate change brings its impact with each passing year.
7. Interactive mapping to increase awareness and plan for sustainable actions
A problem can only be addressed once identified and recognized. Interactive mapping technology helps with environmental sustainability in a way that raises awareness of the current environmental status of certain locations. This mapping technology will even help real estate firms give a complete picture for clients, so they’ll know what they’ll be expecting if they decide to live in a certain area, even incorporating the location on Google My Business listings. On top of that, you can use Google My Business software to keep an eye on it.
8. Precision agriculture to promote environmental sustainability
With precision agriculture, farming practices will be more accurate and wastage can be minimized or better yet, completely avoided. The technology includes smart sensors, from irrigation system sensors, all the way down to harvesting vehicles. These will help farmers get the most out of their harvests, reducing waste while increasing yields.
9. Efficiency of electric vehicles
Just like solar panels that use to cost an arm and a leg, the development of technology within electric vehicles makes it a practical and affordable mode of transportation now. People are now opting for electric-powered vehicles rather than fuel-powered ones.
EVs are now a viable option, not just for the affluent, but also for the average person. As the price continues to fall for this sustainable technology only expect demand to continue to climb, a good sign for the environment and for the future of sustainability.
Technology retreading sustainability
The development of technology has long helped humans become more efficient and comfortable. With the demand for environmental sustainability, technology now is also focused on sustainability.
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With sustainability becoming a consistent feature in current and future advancements, the world will be a better place not just for us today, but also for future generations to come.
At Valuer, we think sustainability and sustainable technologies are opening the door to new business opportunities throughout various industries. The amount of innovation within sustainability is something that any organization does not want to miss out on because it has the potential to improve so many different facets of a company.
The only difficult part is finding the right solution for your organization. That’s where we come in. The Valuer platform offers a streamlined innovation tool that can generate the data-driven insights you need to take your next sustainable and innovative step.
The platform offers features and information that can help keep you on top of innovation and ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability. If you want to learn more, check out the platform and test drive it for free, or read more on our website.
Guest Author Bio:
Christian Cabaluna is a finance blogger at Novum™ with 5+ years of first-hand experience. When he is not writing in his favorite coffee shop, Christian spends most of his time reading (mainly about money-related topics), cooking, watching sitcoms, visiting beaches, and catching beautiful sunsets.