Sustainability is a term thrown about quite often in conversations that we have, in the workplace or at home. The umbrella term sustainability includes depleting resources, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more. The concept of sustainability as we know it today was defined in the 1980s. Since then, it has become more urgent to address the problems we face (and have caused) and create meaningful change, which is where sustainable tech comes in.
Technology-powered solutions are blazing through the sustainable development field. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are now efficiently working towards sustainability. We use machine learning to combat climate change by getting better climate predictions, simulating the effects of extreme weather, and tracking carbon emissions.
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Startups that are changing the way we think about sustainability
Sustainability is an idea that needs to be universal. Although awareness is steadily increasing, the changes are not enough, and we are still harming our planet. The goal is to alter our habits (as consumers and as producers) so that we help slow, then reverse the damage we’ve done to the environment.
Green startups with sustainable tech products and solutions are paving the way forward. Some companies are using machine learning and artificial intelligence to make their efforts towards sustainability more effective. The most exciting part is that each green startup that uses technology pushes the boundaries of what can be solved with technology.
Plan A is a startup that has developed a platform to address carbon emissions. Their product helps companies manage their emissions and work towards being carbon neutral.
“The very fabric of our carbon accounting methodology demonstrates that getting to net-zero is not as simple as eliminating the emissions of a few companies,” Lubomila Jordanova, CEO at Plan A, told me.
A small number of companies are responsible for a considerable amount of the world’s carbon emissions. That means that while every business that gets to net-zero carbon is making a difference, the goal is to get the big corporations to reduce their carbon output.
“Plan A is open to working with companies with high emissions,” Jordanova said. “We work with companies with high levels of emissions and support them to map out their impact (carbon-related and beyond), make decisions at their core to decarbonize their activities, and meet science-based goals coherent with keeping global warming to 1.5°C.”
A sustainable economy is a light at the end of the tunnel for our planet, and we are thankfully starting to make our way through the tunnel. Jordanova said, “What will make the difference between success and failure in achieving a sustainable economy is the understanding of each individual manufacturer that every decision they make is linked to the overall economy.”
What can a single person do to help globally?
A single person can be overwhelmed by the vastness of the issues we are dealing with. Global temperatures are rising, polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and climate change is in our face asking us what we’re going to do to help our environment.
At an individual level, one of our biggest responsibilities is to recycle our trash. Litterati is an app that aims to make picking up our litter fun and approachable. Using their app, you take a photo of the garbage you pick up. The Litterati AI helps identify what the trash is and how it needs to be disposed of.
This process of identifying, disposing of, and relaying that information back to Litterati gives valuable data. This data can be used to understand how much litter is in the streets of a city; we can use it to track smart city goals and bring communities together to keep their areas clean.
Litterati is a great example of combining sustainable tech with current culture. Smartphones are never more than three feet away from our reach, and we use them to take photographs almost constantly. What better than to make use of that natural activity for the planet’s benefit?
An ocean of oxygen
Litterati makes cleaning up our land easier. But what can we do to help the marine life in our oceans? For most of us, the importance of coral reefs for marine life and ocean ecosystems goes over our heads. So here are some facts to drive home the significance of the tiny organisms that live underwater. A quarter of marine species live in coral reefs. An estimated 50% of our oxygen comes from the ocean and the organisms in these coral reefs. More than 500 million people worldwide depend directly on the coral reefs for food, income, or coastal protection.
Unfortunately, these coral reefs are threatened by the rising temperatures of the sea and the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the air. Both of these contribute to ocean acidification. As the ocean gets more acidic, coral reefs struggle to form the hard exoskeletons they need to survive.
Thankfully, Coral Gardeners are using sustainable tech solutions to address this problem. Their mission is to revive the damaged coral reefs by rehabilitating super corals, which are coral species that have shown increased resistance to higher ocean temperatures. Coral Gardeners aim to build awareness of the importance of coral reefs, create immersive experiences for tourists and save the coral reef ecosystems along the way.
They build global communities by putting corals up for adoption. So from anywhere around the world, you can buy a super coral, and fund its growth, and transplant it back into the reef. This is another nifty way that an individual can make a difference and help the ocean ecosystem.
AI and sustainable tech
These startups represent a fraction of the current crop using AI in sustainable tech to help redress the balance and solve humanity’s biggest challenge. For the first time in human history, we have the computing power and the data to find the best ways to deal with climate change, global warming, and other crucial environmental issues.