Earth Hour: When Sustainability and Technology Meet
"Our universe is a sea of energy – free, clean energy. It is all out there waiting for us to set sail upon it." - Robert Adams
You’ve probably heard of Earth Day, an annual worldwide holiday on April 22 that celebrates the Earth, and brings awareness to sustainability and environmental issues. But did you also know that there's an Earth Hour? That’s right — every March, citizens of all countries are urged to dig even deeper into their environmentalism and not just recognize the importance of taking care of the environment, but actually do something about it. Earth Hour is less a holiday and more of a campaign. It’s a single hour, usually the last Saturday in March, during which people (including businesses) are encouraged to turn off all their lights to conserve energy.
Earth Hour is a climate change created by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and began in Sydney, Australia back in 2007. Now, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon where people host candle-lit parties to celebrate keeping their lights off and protecting their environment.
Of course, it takes more than a single hour once a year to help combat the effects of climate change. And individuals are not the biggest issue — yes, recycling matters, and keeping your carbon footprint low is important, but big businesses are the real climate change culprits. We as individuals are simply not capable of the amount of emissions created by industries. Luckily, as we become increasingly aware of the damage fossil fuels are doing to our atmosphere, companies are starting to look to tech to solve some of the big issues. Renewable energy tech is a booming industry, and in honor of Earth Day, we wanted to take a look at some of the latest advancements in sustainable technology.
1. Solar Powered Trains
Picture a train and you might have an image of a classic train leaving a billowing trail of black smoke in its wake. However, solar powered trains could be our future. A solar powered train can run all day without needing a recharge, and gives approximately 75% of the energy it uses back to the solar grid to be reused. And it’s already being put to use! The BBC has a great video on the idea.
2. Improved Wind Turbines
You’ve probably seen windmills, or at least images of windmills. Large, towering blades that rotate and create energy from the wind. But Vortex Bladeless, a Spanish startup, has created a wind turbine that doesn’t require blades at all. These turbines are quieter, more manageable, and safer for birds! They also don’t take up as much space as traditional wind turbines, meaning that they can be installed in more areas.
3. Glass Battery
Wouldn't you love a battery that lasts longer, is less expensive, is safer, and is better for the environment? Luckily, John B. Goodenough came up with a solution that does exactly this: the lithium-ion battery. They’re the battery used in most electric cars, and are so impressive that they won Goodenough a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019. The most impressive part? Goodenough (yes, that’s really his name) was 97 years old when he received the prize.
4. Modular Wave Energy Converters
Irish startup Seabased saw a common, everyday object, the buoy, and figured it could be put to greater use. It didn’t just have to sit (or rather, bob) there — it could harness the power of the ocean! They created the Modular Wave Energy Converter (WEC), which connects a buoy to generators on the seabed. The buoys take in the energy created by the waves, and transfers it to the generators.
Fossil fuels are the biggest contributor to global warming. One British startup, Phycobloom, wondered: what if we could create oil out of something other than fossil fuels? How about algae? Previous iterations of algae oil would create the oil by crushing and killing the algae (not very sustainable). Phycobloom genetically engineered algae to create its own oil, which it then releases into its surroundings. The same algae is used, making the process inexpensive and quick. Creating oil out of simple air, water, and sunshine (all it takes algae to grow) seems almost too good to be true.
How did you celebrate Earth Hour? What do you think of these new renewable sources of energy? Let us know in the comments — we always love hearing from you!
Header Photo Credit: Louis Reed