The concept of environmental protection is no longer reserved for a niche group of scientists, professors and activists. The demand for green tech solutions has expanded on both a local and global level due to awareness of climate change and how pollution impacts health. Here's a look at what green technology is and how it contributes to a stronger business model.
Evolution of Green Technology
Green technology comprises systems and equipment that help reduce greenhouse gases in the environment. The earliest signs of green technology appeared in the early nineteenth century as the industrial revolution was changing the world. During the rise of factories, scientists began to study the negative effects of coal-burning plants on the environment.
In the late nineteenth century, an environmental movement developed among people who loved the great outdoors and sought to preserve nature. From this movement led by John Muir, co-founder of the Sierra Club, emerged views on wilderness preservation and conservation of natural resources.
By the 1960s, America had coast-to-coast highways full of traffic fueled by the oil industry. During this time scientists became more aware of dangers related to CO2 pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring woke up many politicians that chemical pesticides used in agriculture were linked to cancer and other illnesses.
In the decade that followed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to study pollution and propose solutions for a healthier environment. The EPA set goals on reducing toxins and waste while aiming for cleaner air and water. In the 90s, there was a growing demand for EVs but oil interests fought the development until the emergence of Tesla in the 2000s. Now EV-charging stations are expanding across the United States.
Core Green Tech Industries
At the core of green tech development are green energy producers, manufacturers and recyclers. Here are the main green tech solutions blossoming in the 2020s:
- Renewable Energy: Solar and wind are the leading forms of renewable energy. Utility companies have embraced these clean energy solutions for backup resources and cost-cutting.
- Electric Vehicles (EVs): Only a small percentage of Americans drive electric cars in the 2020s, but the number is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade. EVs are emissions-free and can go 300 miles on a single charge, which can be powered by solar panels.
- Sustainable Farming: The organic food market has grown significantly in the last few decades as consumers want less exposure to toxic pesticides. Organic farming is part of sustainable agriculture, which includes reducing water waste and maximizing eco-friendly solutions.
- Recycling: Almost all materials used for making consumer products, including e-waste, can be recycled by a recycling center. Metals, plastics, wood and glass are commonly reused to make new products. Recycling can be a solution to supply shortages as well as a strategy to reduce waste in landfills.
Other new sustainable solutions are emerging, such as carbon capture technologies that remove greenhouse gases from the environment. Digital transformation and the proliferation of IoT devices has allowed professionals to monitor environmental activity with the goal of reducing harmful pollutants.
Escalating Use of Green Tech
Green tech, also known as clean tech, is gaining in adoption among many different types of businesses. Part of this push toward green tech comes from local, state and federal governments with incentives to go green and stricter laws on pollution. California has mandated an end to selling new gas-powered vehicles in the state next decade, which has forced several automakers to develop EVs.
The supply chain crisis during the pandemic caused many businesses to rethink their logistics and seek more sustainable solutions in warehousing and transportation. Businesses are widely embracing the notion of well-being as a necessary component of the workplace, which means reducing indoor air pollution with modern HVAC systems.
Why Solar Energy is Here to Stay
Solar energy is now the least expensive form of alternative energy, as reported by the International Energy Agency in a 2020 report. Furthermore, solar power is now the cheapest form of electricity in history. The reason it's safe to say solar is here to stay is because the sun is expected to keep shining for millions of years. Continuous improvements in cost efficiency and energy efficiency make solar impossible to ignore as all businesses look to cut energy costs.
Investing in Green Energy
Environmental, social, governance (ESG) scores are now on the radar of the investment community. While definitive standards are still needed for ESG scores, the point is that an increasing number of investors are concerned by how companies use resources. Companies that create massive pollution often face massive lawsuits, while those going green get better press.