Slowly, alterations are happening to reverse some of the damage we’ve done to the environment. Businesses are finally stepping up to the plate to drive the needed changes, which is well overdue considering the damaging effects of packaging, mass production, construction, cheap labor, pollution, material selection and so much more.
Consumers are also becoming more aware and making conscious choices to use the power of the dollar to demand for sustainable products and services. While we’re still battling affordability versus conscientious choices, consumers are forcing businesses to conform to the zeitgeist embracing climate action. Here are a few ways we’re seeing this happen.
Aiming for net zero
It’s a topic that’s discussed in houses, communities, the nation and around the world. Each individual and organization is being called to reduce their carbon footprint. The global population is noticeably accepting the goal to reach net zero status by the year 2050. While that used to be a sci-fi date, it’s now less than 27 years away and businesses need to double-down on their promises — literally.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), “While more than 34% of the world’s largest companies are committed to net zero, nearly all (93%) will fail to achieve their goals if they don’t at least double the pace of emissions reduction by 2030.”
This gap between good intentions and actual success has led to a plethora of consulting options for businesses. These organizations help businesses set tangible goals, organize the required shifts to achieve those goals and keep the business on track during the journey. This includes steps like evaluating the supply chain, land and water impact, effects on wildlife populations and transport methods.
In both the residential and business realms, we’ve seen a huge increase in the adoption of renewable energy. These systems aren’t new. The windmill and water wheel have been around since early civilizations. However, the technology is advancing, resulting in more affordable, lighter, compact and efficient options.
Now a household can rely on a single solar panel to heat the hot tub or water heater. Similarly, we increasingly rely on solar power for pathway and motion-sensored lighting.
Solar panels are blanketing the roofs of businesses across the globe as the cost savings become more visible.
Even in areas where sunlight isn’t as prevalent, geothermal, wind, hydro, biomass and nuclear options are growing in popularity, nudging down consumption of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Their use is increasing on farms, manufacturing plants and office buildings in an effort to promote energy efficiency, lower costs and environmentally-friendly action.
Increase in environmental jobs
While we’ll always need professionals in banking, medicine, science, trade crafts and education, the career fields of the future are squarely aimed at green industries.
Job-promotion site LinkedIn reported a 40% increase in green skills as a job requirement, based on global job listings. In fact, most job listing sites, podcasts and blogs are shifting focus towards green jobs too. Watch for technician and engineering jobs related to wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems and more.
The planet is feeling the strain of food production. From methane released by beef and dairy cows to the amount of land dedicated to single crops such as corn, agriculture is leaving a massive impact in its wake. However, with the data in front of us, the industry is beginning to make changes. While it’s not even close to being enough, we’re putting the tools in place for changes to pick up speed. These changes include increasing financial incentives for farmers and improving education about the effects of farming practices. There’s also been a significant increase in innovative technologies.
In addition, research and development of alternative foods is on the rise and plant-based products are flooding the shelves. All of these tactics are aimed at lowering carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions, as well as sequestering carbon.
Organic and natural materials
We all share an ecosystem and every action we take creates a ripple effect. For example, plastic is an enemy of the planet. There’s no two ways about it. It’s a petroleum-based product that relies on the collection and transport of fossil fuels. On top of that, every piece of plastic ever produced is still on the planet somewhere. It’s polluting the water and the land. Miniscule microplastics have been found in the systems of every living thing on the planet, from babies to animals.
Clothing, shoes, accessories, home decor, bedding and many other items we come into contact with are made from a blend of materials that include plastic in some form. Consider some of the alternate names for plastic, such as acrylic or poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA), polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS).
During production, use and after disposal, these products are creating a waste stream we can’t maintain. The plastic monster will be difficult to defeat, but recognizing its impact on the entire life cycle is motivating consumers and businesses to return to natural materials.
There’s a movement to create plastics out of bio-based materials that perform in the same way. Many textile companies are moving to clean supply chains to source natural materials like bamboo, eucalyptus, organic cotton, hemp, banana leaves, algae and more. These materials not only come with a safer label, but can biodegrade or even compost back into the soil post consumer use.
The EDF reports, “Over 30 million trucks on U.S. roads generate 7% of U.S. GHG emissions – more than aviation, maritime shipping and rail combined.”
Nearly every mode of transportation now has a fully electric version. We’ve got planes, trains, boats, trucks, buses and cars. The federal government has committed to convert nearly all federal vehicles to electric or other forms of net zero operation by the year 2035. Consumers are getting on board with the idea too, seeking out hybrid and electric options at record numbers. As infrastructure grows to support the industry and prices come down, EVs will become mainstream, unless an even better technology whips onto the market.
Lead image via Pexels