The Role of Technology in Sustainability

Innovative Technological Solutions as the Next Step in Achieving Sustainability

Climate change is a serious concern for the international community, as extreme and irregular weather conditions caused by climate change are detrimental to both developed and developing countries. Solutions need to supplement the direct approach of limiting the consumption of fossil fuels.

One solution crucial to the achievement of global sustainability is technology. Green technological solutions vary in form and purpose, yet share the same overall goal, to stem the impact of climate change for future generations. These solutions support and enhance the sustainability initiatives that many organizations and cities have already implemented. Many of these initiatives are geared towards mitigation; others are geared towards adaptation.

In a paper published by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), technology is framed as a means towards adaptation. The organization states that while there are already mitigation actions being implemented, adapting to climate change is just as important. With the global landscape already altered by the effects of climate change, our planet and communities would be better off with technology that helps the world’s population adapt to potentially radical changes in the environment.

Green technologies vary from those based on long-existing knowledge to new innovations. In some cases, the best solutions are those based on long-existing knowledge and newly updated with recent technologies. With prices for solar panels and wind turbines continuing to drop, these traditional forms of sustainable technology are getting new life from organizations that work to increase their efficiency through constant innovation.

  • New Delhi’s Smart City

    The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) announced its plans for installing solar panels on top of public schools and willing households. It is working with the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to come up with billing rates to be used when the transition happens. While plans for the project are not yet finalized, officials are hopeful that they will be able to generate at least 1.7 MW of electricity from schools alone.
  • The Netherlands’ Liveable Wind Turbine

    A Dutch design firm unveiled its proposal for a wind turbine that also functions as an apartment block and hotel. The project, called the Dutch Windwheel, will generate electricity from both wind and water because of its planned location along the Rotterdam waterside. The team in charge of the project is still in talks with the city council and developers, and are eyeing 2020 to begin construction.

Other organizations focused on creating new technologies have begun developing their own products and solutions that promote sustainability.

  • Washington and New York’s Food App

    Greenease , an app that directs users towards green restaurants, makes eating out a socially-responsible act. By helping individuals find eateries that source their food from “local, ethical and sustainable suppliers,” the app promotes and supports local green movements. Greenease, free for iOS and Android, is currently limited to Washington DC and New York, and developers are working to expand its reach.
  • California's Self-Sustaining City

    Quay Valley , the ambitious development brainchild of GROW Holdings , is poised to become one of California’s newest towns in 2016. The town, which will be located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, will be 100% self-sustaining with the help of solar power and its Hyperloop, an advanced transportation network that aims to reduce the need for pollution-causing transportation (e.g., cars and buses). The project is being lauded as one of the most ambitious green projects in recent history. GROW Holdings is working with FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) as the environmental consultant on the project. With over 50,000 homes planned for interested citizens, the town is a valuable model for future cities.

The Role of Cities in Promoting Green Technology

The role of cities in the promotion of sustainable solutions is of the utmost importance. Starting at the local level, government and business leaders are able to ensure that the solutions they adopt are the ones best suited for their city. The consequences of climate change affect citizens all over the world, and many of them have become more supportive of green projects and deliberately aware of the decisions local leaders make for the sake of sustainability. Following are some cities that have adopted innovative technology solutions to promote sustainability on the local level.

  • Portland’s Water Power

    The LucidPipe™ allows residents to generate electricity whenever they turn on their water taps and flush their toilets, with the help of turbines that are installed within the existing pipes. This state-of-the-art design allows Lucid Energy , its creator, to avoid the process of deconstructing and rebuilding existing pipes, which creates a negative impact on the environment.
  • San Diego’s Car-Powered Grid

    San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a public utility company, recently launched a pilot program that gathers information to integrate electric cars into California’s power grid. The project, which will last until the later part of 2015, provides stationary storage systems and EV charging sites that monitor demand via a special software. The goal of the project is to determine charging behavior and grid use in order to meet future demands without putting too much pressure on the state’s grid.
  • Perth’s Wave Project

    The Carnegie Perth Wave Energy Project was created in order to fully utilize the powerful waves in Western Australia. The buoy-like structures created by CETO Technologies will be placed in the water to generate power from the waves while collecting water to be desalinated. The energy and clean water generated from the project will be sold to the Australian Department of Defense for its naval base.
  • Johannesburg’s Kinetic Walkway

    Pavegen , a London-based clean tech company, developed flooring that generates energy via people’s footsteps (i.e., kinetic energy). The company partnered with Samsung to install a walkway in one of Johannesburg’s shopping malls. While it primarily provides energy for Samsung’s interactive data screen, it also collects energy to be distributed to underdeveloped communities in South Africa.

Green Technology as the Key to Sustainable Development in the Global Marketplace

Energy production has increased, mostly with the help of technological advancements . Improvements in technology are often followed by a rise in use, as seen in the popularity of green technology. Investments in renewable energy have gone up considerably, with 2014 seeing $270 billion in investments worldwide.

Global companies view modern technology as an effective tool in aligning their business objectives with sustainability goals. H&M and Puma’s decision to team up for a textile-to-textile recycling technology is part of their business strategy aiming to integrate sustainable practices into corporate operations. The technology’s design is inspired by the circular economy model. By choosing to reuse and repurpose old or substandard products, companies help reduce the pressure put on the supply chain. Such technological advancements change the way companies conduct business.

Government and business leaders have taken up different methods to integrate sustainable technology into their operations. One popular strategy is to partner with a consulting firm to ensure that the technology will fit perfectly with the organization’s existing strategies. Another method is to create a technological solution to complement an organization's existing sustainability initiatives. Creating IT-based solutions is an effective way to integrate sustainability into operations. Software solutions are especially valuable in data monitoring, managing and reporting, thus ensuring that sustainability initiatives are supported by accurate and reliable data. As the world goes green, leaders have embraced the challenge to discover new innovations that will further the advancement of sustainable technology.

FCS' Sustainability Solutions

FCS is a leading sustainability solutions provider with expertise in technological solutions that cater specifically to the supply chain. FCS helps organizations understand the business drivers in managing their sustainability practices and provides examples for incorporating mitigation strategies into their business agenda. FCS also develops cost-effective environmental and sustainability management software solutions.

  • FCS Sustainability Workbench™ — monitors, manages and reports sustainability, energy and supply chain data easily and cost-effectively, to maximize return on investment.
  • FCS ghgTrack™ — uncovers hidden, wasted resources as well as opportunities for cost reduction, and provides the tools to maximize savings, while reducing costs and complexities of accounting for and reporting carbon emissions and resource consumption.