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Green Technology

IoT-Based Environmental Monitoring Making Huge Impact on Sustainability

February 11, 2019
iot based environmental monitoring

Technology has the potential to have both positive and negative impacts on sustainability. It’s largely responsible for the high levels of greenhouse gases causing climate change. It’s also led to quite a bit of pollution. Companies and researchers, however, are also working to use technology to reduce emissions and clean up pollution.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that’s poised to have one of the most significant impacts on sustainability. McKinsey has forecasted that the technology, which consists of a vast network of internet-connected devices, could produce as much as $11.1 trillion in economic value annually by 2025.

An analysis of 640 IoT projects by the World Economic Forum found that 84 percent of them could help achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals — 17 goals adopted by all of the United Nations Member States to promote prosperity and protect the environment.

The IoT has the potential to impact sustainability both directly and indirectly. One area in which it can have a direct impact is environmental monitoring.

The IoT and Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring refers to approaches used to observe and study aspects of the environment, whether for research, conservation efforts, policy-making or ensuring compliance with environmental regulations. It usually involves collecting samples from the land, air or water to test conditions of the environment and determine what factors might be affecting them.

The IoT lends itself perfectly to this endeavor. Equipping environmental sensors with IoT capabilities can help make environmental monitoring more efficient and cost-effective. IoT sensors can send data over the internet, allowing researchers to monitor conditions remotely. Eliminating the need to visit every sensor’s location to read it makes it much faster and cost-effective. Not only does this save money, but it also enables researchers to collect more data, potentially leading to more accurate research. IoT sensors also allow you to collect more granular data than other technologies, such as satellites and radar.

Low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) technology, a type of IoT technology, is often regarded as the most well-suited to environmental monitoring. Sensors that use LPWAN can stay in a location for long periods and send data over a long distance.

IoT Applications in Environmental Monitoring

Some examples of environmental monitoring applications for IoT include monitoring:

  • Forests for fires by detecting smoke
  • Precipitation levels for weather tracking as well as to provide warnings of flooding or avalanches
  • For natural disasters to provide advanced warning
  • Fisheries for animal health and to prevent poaching
  • Soil health to prevent soil degradation and increase crop yield
  • Air quality for pollutant levels, temperature and other conditions
  • Water quality to support access to clean water

IoT devices can help to monitor conditions out in forests, lakes, mountains and other natural environments. They can also monitor the direct impact of industrial activities, such as the operations of a factory or the use or a truck to transport goods. Organizations often use sensors in this way to ensure compliance with environmental policies. Reducing emissions resulting from these activities can have a significant impact on the overall health of the environment. The trucking industry, for example, produces approximately 1.6 billion tons of CO2 each year.

Numerous applications of IoT also aren’t directly related to environmental monitoring but can help improve air and water quality, as well as other environmental conditions. For examples, companies can use IoT tech to monitor and control their energy and water usage to help conserve resources and avoid emissions associated with electricity generation. You can also use IoT devices such as smart thermostats in your home to reduce energy consumption.

The Future of Environmental Monitoring With IoT

IoT technology is already making a significant impact on sustainability, but the technology is still very young. It’s only going to become influential as time goes on.

In the World Economic Forum study mentioned earlier, 95 percent of the IoT projects the researchers analyzed were small-scale or medium-scale. The IoT sector is still working on challenges related to interoperability, or how multiple different types of systems work together. As times goes on, we’ll likely see more standardization related to IoT technology. Many companies are still in the pilot phase when it comes to IoT. As businesses become more comfortable with the technology, we’ll begin to see even broader adoption, as well as bigger budgets for IoT initiatives.

A significant number of the executives interviewed for the World Economic Forum study didn’t see a connection between their initiatives and the Sustainable Development Goals, although the study revealed that the majority of the projects could help in accomplishing the goals. This indicates that some companies may not even be aware that their IoT projects could impact sustainability. As IoT becomes more common, this capability will likely become more apparent, and we’ll see more organizations using IoT technology for environmental monitoring and other sustainability-related initiatives.

Green Technology

World’s First Plastic-Free Flight Paving the Way for Green Aviation

January 28, 2019
green aviation

The aviation industry’s relationship with sustainability is somewhat complicated. Though industry leaders have acknowledged the environmental impact of air travel, progress is slow, and the damage is considerable. As of 2017, aviation was responsible for 11 percent of transportation-related emissions in the United States.

So how can today’s airlines affect change? Portuguese carrier Hi Fly has proven small changes are the best place to start, taking a significant step toward green aviation with the world’s first plastic-free flight. On December 26, they made a trip between Lisbon and Brazil without any single-use plastic items on board.

In this article, we’ll explore the implications of this simple, but no less important example of sustainability in air travel. As we examine the efforts of Hi Fly and carriers like them, we’ll show how the aviation industry is transitioning toward eco-friendly practices.

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Green Technology

Wind-Powered Ocean Drones and What They Teach Us About the Sea

January 17, 2019
ocean drones

Many believe outer space is the next great frontier and that our current trajectory has placed us on a path toward the stars. It’s far more reasonable to say that our planet’s ocean is the next great frontier and that the future of exploration lies in the depths of the sea and not among the Milky Way, as so many people assume.

It’s a fair assumption, with the pace of progress and the investments of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. That said, we’re more likely to see a thorough mapping of the ocean before we see extensive space travel. With recent innovations like wind-powered ocean drones, this scale of mapping isn’t distant on the horizon.

We should examine today’s technology in greater detail, looking at the application of “saildrones” for fishing, drilling and environmental science. These drones have enormous potential to teach us more about the mysteries of the sea — let’s touch on a bit of what we’ve already learned.

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Green Technology

Renewable Energy Initiatives Around the World

January 3, 2019
renewable energy initiatives

Climate change is a global issue, and around the world, countries have organized renewable energy initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. These projects and programs reflect a society more conscious of its footprint, aware of the effect of carbon emissions and excessive waste on the planet’s health.

Though it’s a slow transition — and some are still reluctant to accept the change — the United States is moving closer to clean energy every day. While the president has made his position clear, state leaders across the nation continue to push for renewables as they distance themselves from fossil fuels.

Overseas, policymakers have shown the same dedication to preserving the environment, developing plans to decrease their dependence on coal, oil and natural gas. We’ll touch on a few of these ambitious initiatives and others like them, exploring projects in Tunisia, Nicaragua, Wales and China.

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Green Technology

Waste Companies Turning Food Waste to Energy

November 26, 2018
food waste to energy

About one-third of the food the world produces each year for consumption by humans gets wasted or lost. In fact, they throw away up to $2,200 in food per year. This creates a financial burden for families as well as waste companies and municipalities that must determine what to do with all this waste. New York City, for example, spends about $400 million each year shipping the waste it collects to landfills and incinerators across the country.

This wasted food also has a significant environmental impact. It represents a lot of wasted resources — not just the food itself, but also the land, water and energy it took to produce it. Food decomposing in landfills also releases a gas composed of approximately 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide, both of which contribute to the greenhouse effect. Landfills are responsible for about 14 percent of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.

There are various efforts underway to prevent this food waste and its negative impacts. In 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the nation’s food waste reduction goals, which aimed to cut waste by 50 percent by 2030.

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Green Technology

Are Wind and Solar Viable Options for 100% Renewable Energy?

November 9, 2018

As public concern over climate change increases, more people see the need for sustainable energy production. Traditional power generation relies on burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, a process which releases the warming greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar aim to produce essential energy without the carbon emissions.

The popular demand for 100 percent renewable energy, reflected in public opinion and policy in states like California, has lead to increased investment in wind and solar power in recent years. Despite growing interest in renewable energy, it remains unclear whether renewable energy alone can get us to a zero-carbon future.

Wind and solar power represent great potential for clean, renewable electricity. However, they may not fill all the world’s energy needs by themselves. Let’s examine wind and solar as a path to 100 percent renewable energy and consider possible alternative solutions.

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Green Technology

How Can Lean Manufacturing Be Sustainable

October 18, 2018

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword — it is an important part of almost every industry if the industry wants to continue to grow and thrive in the modern economy. Lean manufacturing can be a great way for a number of different industries to increase efficiency and productivity but can it also be sustainable?

What is Lean Manufacturing?

First, what is lean manufacturing?

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Green Technology

Free Solar for Low-Income Families Offers Promising Future for Renewable Energy

October 4, 2018
free solar for low income families

Reliance on fossil fuel paints a grim picture of the future. Heavy pollution and poor air quality, tainted groundwater and ravaged ecosystems comprise a landscape where nothing grows — the Earth salted without hope of restoration. Given the current political climate, this is a pressing threat.

The optimistic men and women at GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic picture the future differently. They view the future as one of long-term sustainable energy, using affordable alternatives to conventional methods to preserve the environment while enjoying the same level of comfort and convenience.

In their picture of the future, the air is clean, the groundwater is clear and wildlife receives the respect it deserves. The grass grows a little greener, and harmony exists between the natural and artificial. So how is GRID working toward making this dream a reality?

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Green Technology

How Renewables Can Prevail Despite Trump’s Renewable Energy Policy

September 20, 2018
Trump's renewable energy policy

America’s Trump-Republican government has rendered its judgment on climate change with vast silence and outlined its renewable energy policy by doubling-down on coal. We thought Trump’s renewable energy policy would reach “peak contrarian” when we pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. But the truth is, we’ll scarcely have a single environmental regulation on the books by the time this administration is shown the door.

The good news is, there’s lots of good news. We don’t have to get partisan about the damage done when the wrong people get elected. Let’s focus instead on the undeniable momentum behind the pivot to renewable energy, despite Trump’s renewable energy policy.

Understanding that the U.S. is just one piece of the global puzzle, and that what’s happening here is raising consciousness elsewhere in the world, might help our current political situation feel slightly less sad and regressive. So let’s jump into the good news about why renewables are set to prevail no matter who’s at the helm.

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Green Technology

Uber Electric Cars Are on the Way

September 6, 2018
uber electric cars

Have you recently booked an Uber trip? There’s a chance the driver’s vehicle was an electric car, but Uber still has progress to make in that area.

To put things in perspective, 4 billion people took Uber trips in 2017, but only 4 million of those were in Uber electric cars.

The relatively few drivers who have electric vehicles (EVs) and work for Uber face challenges such as having difficulty finding charging points. In addition, the time it takes to recharge the cars interferes with time they could spend earning money.

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