Dec 27, 2018 - 5min read
At Tonik, we pride ourselves on staying one step ahead of the sustainability game - we’re always on the look-out for the next big thing to help our members reduce the size of their energy bills and their carbon footprint.
There’s a whole world of sustainability outside of renewable energy though, and we wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the innovations - and innovators - that we think could be coming to the fore and making a big difference in 2019.
So, come on 2019 - we’re ready for you!
2018 has been a big year for taking action on plastic waste; governments around the world taking steps to legislate against single-use plastics, companies reducing the amount of plastic packaging that they use, and the general public have been re-thinking the way they use plastic. Shout out to Sir David Attenborough for kickstarting the revolution!
The upshot of all this is that there should be an increase in demand for bio-plastic alternatives, and innovators across the world are already rising admirably to the task. A company called Ecovative has had the novel idea of growing packaging from a mushroom-based material, which means it would be able to biodegrade in just a few weeks. Don’t try eating it though… we’re not sure it would taste great.
Meanwhile, big companies have been looking into new materials for some time, and we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future. An interesting existing example, however, is an unusual collaboration between Heinz and Ford, who discovered that the leftover fibers from making huge quantities of delicious tomato ketchup can actually be used to reinforce plastics - and make a big reduction in the amount of plastics used in Ford’s cars.
We’ve got our fingers crossed that 2019 will be a major year for bio-plastics increasing to a lot more than just 1% of the world’s plastic production.
Okay, so the phrase ‘lab-grown meat’ may not conjure up the most mouthwatering images that have ever crossed your mind, but 2018 has already seen the plant-based beefalike Impossible Burger making its way onto the menus of high-profile restaurants, where it has been praised for its taste and texture.
Impossible Foods Inc. are a relatively new company that are looking to make sustainable vegetarian products that refuse to compromise on the flavour and experience of eating meat - and if they’re successful, they could have a huge impact on decreasing environmentally damaging farming processes worldwide.
Their process of using a high-tech molecular method of selecting proteins and nutrients from eco-friendly foods to create meaty imitation foods has impressed a huge number of future-minded investors including Bill Gates and Google Ventures, who as of October 2018 have helped Impossible Foods raise $387.5m of funding.
So it’s starting to sound like lab-grown meat isn’t a flash-in-the-pan...
Solar power for the off-grid world
No one loves a spot of solar power more than we do, and we just have to doff our caps to Berlin-based social enterprise Solarkiosk, who are doing an amazing job getting solar technology out to the people who need it the very most; the 1.5 billion people across the world living off-grid and without electricity.
The Solarkiosk E-HUBB is - surprise, surprise - a solar-powered kiosk that is available to rural communities in need across Africa and Asia. It provides access to sustainable energy systems for homes, refrigeration, water purification, charging and communication technology; where previously these amenities would have been completely inaccessible. Not only that, but it creates a sustainable business which stimulates local economies through access to green technology.
Solarkiosk and similar companies have been around for some time, but as the price of solar tech continues to fall, we believe there’s going to be a big increase in its use in the developing world through schemes such as this one - and they’re a real testament to the untapped potential of renewable energy!
Sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky
A new technology known as CO2 capture plants - basically a fancy way of saying ‘giant sky hoovers’ - are being designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
There are only a few of them in existence - so far the technology has proved prohibitively expensive - and they look like giant stacks of air conditioning fans piled on top of one another, usually in a wide-open space.
2018, however, has seen some strides that could make the geoengineering technology a lot cheaper than expected; a Canadian firm called Carbon Engineering has unveiled plans for a plant that could extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of $92 per tonne - more than six times cheaper than the current going rate for carbon capture.
So, again, as the price of the technology plummets, the possibilities for a genuine and positive environmental impact become all the greater. We can’t wait to see the sky hoovers in action en masse!
Alexander Sims: electric racing into the future!
If you’ll allow us to toot the EV-powered horn of our brand new partner Alexander Sims for a moment, he is the perfect (if unusually high-speed) example of the people who are our number one sustainability heroes: our very own Tonik members.
Okay, so he’s a Formula E racing driver starting his first season with BMW i Andretti Motorsports this year. Yes, he was a test driver for Tesla and the BMW i3, and he’s the chairman of Zero Carbon World. Not everyone can say that. But the most important thing you need to know about Alexander Sims is that he practices what he preaches; by installing solar panels on his roof, by having us install EV chargers and a ground source heat pump in his home, and by setting a renewable energy example to his kids as they grow up.
So not only is he a sustainability hero for using his platform as a Formula E racer to promote EVs and renewable energy; he’s a hero for the same reason that all of our Tonik members are - because he’s doing everything within his power to make a difference.