When improper waste disposal procedures are producing islands of trash, it may be time to consider the weight of environmental issues. One by one, communities are diverting themselves from fossil fuels to pursue more environmentally friendly energy options. For state-owned vehicles in Sri Lanka, electric and hybrid cars will be stepping in as replacements as early as 2025.
Private owners have until 2040 to replace their cars, tuk-tuks and motorcycles, when the country plans to no longer allow any fossil fuel-burning vehicles on its roads… said [Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera].
Home to roughly 6.8 million vehicles, Sri Lanka’s transition into electric will benefit the country immensely. To encourage a hassle-free switch, the government is encouraging consumers by cutting taxes on electric cars.
“The tax on electric cars will be reduced by over a million rupees (S$8,851) to encourage motorists to switch to clean energy,” Mr. Samaraweera told parliament.
On the other hand, Samaraweera is also hiking carbon and import taxes to discourage keeping gas vehicles. With inflation on the rise, Sri Lanka’s bumpy ride will hopefully segue into smoother (and sustainable) sailing.
With a rising number of electric buses and taxis headed for the streets, roads are having to undergo adjustments, too. Los Angeles is home to an excess of both trucks and smog. To revamp the deadly duo into something more eco-friendly, Siemens has installed its first electric highway where trucks can charge on-the-go.
“To have the road electrified and have these heavy trucks electrified is just far more efficient from the perspective that you don’t waste fuel, you save energy because the electric motor is far more efficient than the gas motor, and you have no emissions at all,” says Andreas Thon, the head of turnkey projects and electrification in North America.
The trucks are rigged onto overhead wires that run the entire length of the highway. The trucks themselves are cost-efficient, requiring significantly less maintenance than diesel motors. The highway also alleviates battery problems, as they don’t generate enough energy for heavy loads.
Thon says, “With this technology, you permanently feed energy into the truck.”
Siemens also hopes to install charging technology beneath road surfaces — but that will have to wait. After all, it does require a lot more science and a lot more money.
It’s been a year of firsts for the railway system — from going solar to launching its fastest model. Pushing its limits even further, China is test-driving its Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system, which is fully electric and trackless.
ART bears the physical appearance of a train but it doesn’t rely on following a track. Instead, it follows a virtual route using an electric powertrain and tires. It’s expected to function much like an urban train or a tram, but since there’s no investment cost in laying down rails, it should be much cheaper to implement.
The train can only travel 15 kilometers at a time, but can fully recharge in just 10 minutes. Environmentalists will likely tip their hats off to the new system — it’s entirely emissions free! Smoggy China could surely use more sustainable public transport alternatives. Thankfully, its government has been taking other measures to ensure that its locals don’t further experience pollution-caused health issues.
40 percent of China’s factories have been shut down, and authorities are reportedly working on a timetable to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars.
A round of applause for China — sounds fresh!
While environmental groups are tackling climate change on a grander scale, startups are handling smaller projects. Though it’s clear that innovations like Off Grid Box and SkyCool are making an impact, change can’t come quickly enough. To assist Pacific islanders displaced by natural disasters, New Zealand hopes to distribute refugee visas.
“There might be a new, an experimental humanitarian visa category for people from the Pacific who are displaced by rising seas stemming from climate change,” [said] James Shaw, New Zealand’s climate change minister… “and it is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific Islands.”
The country is recovering from the repercussions of denying sanctuary to two deposed Tuvalu families. It seems the 1951 refuge convention, which defines a refugee as someone at risk of persecution, is making room for climate change as a legitimate oppressor.
“The lives and livelihoods of many of our Pacific neighbors are already being threatened and we need to start preparing for the inevitable influx of climate refugees,”
In the coming years, New Zealand will also up its refuge quota to 5,000 per annum. Looks like a storm of change has come.
Saving cities up to $505 million a year, trees are the underdog we tend to dismiss too often. After planting a record-breaking 66 million trees in 12 hours, Indian volunteers have inspired even greater reforestation attempts. Conservation International is going big, attempting to restore 70,000 acres of the Amazon forest.
“If the world is to hit the 1.2°C or 2°C [degrees of warming] target that we all agreed to in Paris, then protecting tropical forests in particular has to be a big part of that,” [says] M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International.
Stopping the seemingly trivial issue of deforestation can cut up to 37% of carbon emissions. To rehabilitate the Amazon, the group is using the muvuca strategy. This tactic combines over 200 native forest species that have a 90% chance of successful germination.
“With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare. And after 10 years, you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare. It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.”
Even better, Conservation International is employing indigenous communities and family farmers. A few million trees have already been planted, and it seems an appetite for change is growing along with them.
The existence of eco-friendly, weather-resistant structures such as Thailand’s bamboo building are evidence that designers are saving the planet. To drive a point, MIT students are embedding irradiated water bottles into cement to make concrete more robust and sustainable.
The research revealed that exposing the plastic to gamma radiation actually made it stronger. The irradiated plastic was then ground into a powder and mixed with cement. The subsequent concrete was up to 20 percent stronger than concrete made without the irradiated plastic.
Engineers found the added plastic (only 1.5% of the concoction) made concrete significantly denser. If you’re skeptical about incorporating the mix into future room renovations, don’t worry — it isn’t radioactive. Furthermore, using plastic will potentially relieve a few dozen landfills.
“Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says [MIT professor Michael] Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”
Environmentalists might campaign for a plastic-free society — but it isn’t the easiest option. Perhaps, now, it’s all about redirecting your waste to where it will be most useful.
The steady rise of electric vehicles will soon leave petrol and diesel cars in the dust. BMW is launching electric buses all over Europe, while the London Taxi Company is replacing old cabs. A few months later, the U.K. remains on top of the eco-ladder, with Oxford planning to eliminate non-electric vehicles.
The scheme aims to cut levels of nitrogen dioxide, the majority of which comes from traffic fumes, by three-quarters.
To give distributors leeway, Oxford will be imposing the ban in 2020, increasing the affected zone by 2035. We all know electric vehicles aren’t the most affordable, so locals may have to do some walking. The plan is projected to cost £7 million, but the city council deems the shift will be well worth it.
Oxford city councillor John Tanner said a “step change” is urgently needed as toxic air pollution is “damaging the health” of residents.
It’s a bold move, Oxford, but hopefully a successful one.
Considering the number of annual deaths caused by pollution, it not only makes sense to cut emissions but to also improve air quality. All over the world, groups are working to make the atmosphere as breathable as possible. Bogota is erecting vertical gardens while China is manufacturing air-purifying bicycles. Not to be outdone, Iceland has set up the world’s first negative emissions power plant.
Climate startup Climeworks refitted a geothermal plant in Iceland to remove carbon dioxide from the air while also generating power for thousands of homes. This carbon dioxide is safely embedded in rock, where it will remain for millions of years.
The storage process, called carbon capture and storage, is keeping temperatures from rising to extreme levels. The facility is projected to remove 50 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually. It isn’t much — but it’s something! The procedure is also fairly straightforward.
Climeworks uses… [the] plant’s waste heat to run their own carbon capture tech, pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air and feeding it into the existing Carbfix infrastructure, which deposits it in underground basalt. There, the carbon dioxide forms crystals within two years, and remains stable underground for millennia.
Limited to information from my high school physics class, I hardly knew trapping CO2 was possible. Either way, we should be over the moon to have chemical engineers.
If a bamboo building can withstand several sorts of natural disasters, surely, any other structure can. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the case — until, maybe, now. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are testing a type of concrete that can resist high magnitude earthquakes.
Researchers at . . . UBC have created a fiber-reinforced concrete called eco-friendly ductile cementitious composite (EDCC), that can withstand high seismic activity. The engineered material combines “cement with polymer-based fibers, fly ash and other industrial additives,” according to a university press release.
Simply adding a 10-millimeter layer of the material to existing walls is enough to make it practically impenetrable. But the strength to withstand high magnitude earthquakes — up to a magnitude 9.0! — isn’t the only fantastic feature of the material. It is also linked to sustainability efforts. Considering that normal concrete contributes to nearly 7% of carbon emissions, using mostly fly ash or a coal combustion byproduct definitely earns EDCC points. Hopefully, it will lessen the damages caused by the cement industry to the environment.
“This UBC-developed technology has far-reaching impact and could save the lives of not only British Columbians, but citizens throughout the world,” said Melanie Mark, the minister of advanced education, skills and training in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “The earthquake-resistant concrete is a great example of how applied research at our public universities is developing the next generation of agents of change.”
In the near future, EDCC will also be used for strengthening home structures and blast-resistant buildings. A proud salute to public universities making a difference!
They say starting em’ young is the best way to get a point across — and you often can’t go wrong with a toy. Since first promoting sustainability through bioplastics, Lego is already onto something greater. By the end of the year, the trinket tycoon will launch a collection of plant-based bricks.
Production has started on the sustainable pieces, which include “botanical elements” like leaves, bushes, and trees. The new pieces are made from polyethylene, a soft and durable plastic, and Lego notes that they are “technically identical to those produced using conventional plastic.”
Lego’s $165 million investment in plastic alternatives will hopefully see a drop in the 4% annual consumption of petroleum. The masterminds behind the popular Millennium Falcon build-it is also teaming up with WWF to reduce carbon emissions.
“It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive,” said Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF in a statement.
For nearly 90 years, Lego has inspired us to build more than just fantasies, but sustainable realities.