In the previous installment, we gave you an overview of what green technology is, its applications, and a little historical perspective. We also gave you how some of the world’s biggest companies are leveraging green technology for their operations.
To continue, let us look at the reasons behind the growing popularity of green technology for businesses. Is there any government support to Green and Clean Technology? Where does the future lie for green tech?
Reasons for Going Green
Like it or not, the sad truth is that people and businesses are not going to go green if they have nothing to gain from it. You really cannot expect a business to care about the environment and be socially responsible unless it adds to their bottom line.
Fortunately, there are a lot of reasons why green technology is flourishing. An article written by Wayne Tusa of NYReport.com summarizes the benefits:
- It reduces operating costs.
- It lowers the risks of being sued or fined.
- It builds goodwill with employees, customers, the public, and shareholders.
As you would see from the experiences of big corporations, clean tech is helping save on energy costs. But some cost savings might not be that obvious. For example, going for smart packaging can help a business cut down on its packaging costs. Plus, because it is not using too much of the material, say for example paper, there would be lesser demand for it. The lesser demand would increase the supply and lower prices. Along the same lines, green tech can help save resources that are already scarce as it is. Google’s move to use alternative energy for its operations means that it relies less on fossil fuels.
The class action and mass tort scenario in the United States is really one for the books. One wrong move on the part of a manufacturer, such as using a hazardous chemical, could mean billions of dollars lost in a potentially highly publicized, reputation-damaging litigation. Imagine having a child die because of lead ingestion from an iPhone. Thanks to Apple’s compliance with ROHS, the Restriction on Hazardous Substances, the company does not have to worry about that.
In an age that sees corporations become big bad wolves (think oil spills and scandals), corporate behavior is truly a big deal for consumers. What’s more, in an age where anybody can blog and share a damaging post on Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy for a misbehaving company to get outed, booed and boycotted. Green technology is not just good for the environment, it is good for the company’s reputation, image and PR as well.
This is especially important considering the recent rise in environmental consumerism where more and more people are basing their purchasing decisions on a company’s environmental friendliness.
The Government’s Role
For instance, Energy Star Ratings tell consumers which monitors, CPUs and other pieces of hardware are energy hogs and which ones are not. This EPA program gave rise to Sleep Mode, which places a hardware on standby if not in use. In 2007, the EPA started to include other factors such as the company’s e-waste reduction efforts, regulatory compliance, telecommuting policies, thin client solutions, among others, in order to obtain an Energy Star rating.
Further, manufacturers who go green will be ensuring that they are in compliance with ROHS. The ROHS prohibits the use of certain chemicals such as lead, polybrominated biphenyls and other harmful chemicals used in the production of components and electronic equipment.
Bryan Walsh at Time Magazine, however, has a caveat. Walsh writes that the United States government did not really always support clean technology and alternative fuel. By the 1970s, American researchers had made a lot of headway into solar, wind and other alternative energy sources, only to be relegated to the sidelines when oil prices dropped. Walsh insinuates that the US government wanted to focus on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and concludes that green tech never really stood a chance without the proper funding and support of the government.
Walsh points out that there have also been other lapses. The United Nations’ failed on a comprehensive treaty regarding ways to cut carbon emissions, a group of climate scientists committed fraud, and the U.S. Senate failed to pass a law on capping carbon emissions to hinder clean tech’s advancement.
Nevertheless, Walsh acknowledges that to see that governments are blocking green tech might be a “myopic view.” He cites that Europe and China continue investments in green tech.
So with all that government support and investments, expect to see green technology well into the future.
The Future of Green Technology
The China Green Tech Report, which estimates that China will have a $1 billion green technology market by 2013, identifies these key clean technology areas:
- Technology that brings cleaner conventional energy such as fossil fuels and coal, and increased focus on alternative energy and renewable energy.
- Technology that helps to generate, transmit and distribute electric power more efficiently.
- Technology that facilitates the planning, building and operation of sustainable, efficient and healthy buildings that give occupants comfort, convenience and service. This includes having improved efficiency in energy and water use, low impact materials that are sourced locally, recycled materials, and green designs.
- Technology that brings about cleaner transportation. This includes the use of battery electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, hybrid cars, and even alternative clean fuels such as bioethanol, natural gas, or advanced gasoline ICE.
- Technology that improves the energy efficiency of plants, factories and offices and provides a much cleaner industry. This includes technologies that decrease air and water pollution and solid waste.
- Technology that brings clean usable water, including technologies that help minimize water pollution, desalinate sea water, and improve efficiency such as better irrigation systems and low flow fixtures.
So expect to see more action in alternative and renewable energy sources in the coming year. You might also be seeing cars running on alternatives to gasoline and petroleum. You will have environmentally friendly buildings and workspaces. In addition to these, cloud computing is a big trend now and that is the biggest clean technology.
Cloud computing can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Instead of each company running its own server for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you could have these companies go to a cloud service provider that can keep their applications and websites running round-the-clock.
If you are looking for specific products, take a look at this list of great clean tech innovations:
- Spray on solar panels. Forget expensive and bulky solar panels when you can turn any window into a solar panel. There are now sprays that do just that from EnSol AS and New Energy Technologies.
- Making winter bearable by bringing back the summer heat. You can keep your homes warm in the winter by trapping and storing the heat stored in the ground during the summer. This technology is currently being used by Science City in Switzerland.
- Generate energy by walking? Powerleap allows you to transform your footsteps into energy.
With all the benefits one can get from promoting environmental awareness and for embarking on green campaigns, it is no wonder how high green technology could take off. It definitely has more in store in the next year, and in the years after that.