We have all felt that tug of guilt that has us choosing paper instead of plastic at the grocery store. Sure, we recycle, but the feeling of guilt still surfaces when we scroll past something like the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest chunk of trash floating off the coast of the Pacific. So, the question becomes: what can we do to be more proactive about the environment? Here are five ways people all over the globe are helping planet Earth and the takeaways you should have for your next big idea.
- Bottles for Bus Rides in Surabaya.
In Surabaya, Indonesia a person can get a two-hour bus ride for only five plastic bottles or ten plastic cups. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest contributors to ocean plastic and Surabaya is doing their part to rectify that. One bus can eliminate up to 550 lbs. of plastic waste. Surabaya aims to be plastic free by 2020.
Crowdsourcing: When the problem is too big for a red tape laden entity like the government to handle, ask your neighbors, friends, and others in your community to help you out.
Convenience: Crowdsourcing is all well and good, but without convenience, people are less likely to jump on board.
Thus, Surabaya’s “bottles for bus rides” idea was an elegant marriage of both crowdsourcing and convenience.
- Trash to Electricity in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government commissioned the first plant converting trash to electricity in Africa. The site incinerates 1,400 tons of waste every day, transforming it into enough electricity for 3 million people while staying within the European emissions standard. The plant didn’t stop there either. The ash from the facility is turned into bricks and the plant is also recovering 30 million liters of water from the waste as well.
See a need, fill a need, or in this case, fill multiple needs. Many innovations for the environment are born out of necessity. What are the necessities around you?
- Chlorine Pool Swap
Edmonton, a city in Canada, opened the country’s very first all-natural swimming pool. Chemically treated pools can cause all sorts of issues both to the human body and the environment. Everything from increased risk of cancer to respiratory issues that affect personal wellness. That’s on top of the environmental concerns such as energy consumption, water waste, and chemicals. Edmonton’s solution? The Borden Natural Swimming Pool. The natural swimming pool uses plankton and aquatic plants to help remove contaminants from the water. While swimmers won’t be able to wear cotton fabrics or sunscreen that has phosphates in it, at risk of harming the plants, they won’t get red, irritated eyes from the chlorine either. They are offered a much cleaner experience. And while the pool will be kept about ten degrees colder to prevent pathogen growth, it will be more energy efficient than a chlorine-based pool.
Sustainability: Environmental Sustainability and Personal Wellness do not have to be mutually exclusive.
- Plastic Roads
Over in Ghana, an industrial processing firm called Neplast is transforming trash into roads, garbage bags specifically. Neplast collaborated with the government of Ghana to turn plastic garbage bags into bricks roads. The bricks are made up of a combination of plastic and sand. This was Neplast’s solution to the problem after Ghana banned plastic bags since a vast majority of plastic in Ghana winds up in the landfill, not recycled.
Eco-friendly solutions must be practical as well as eco-friendly. Neplast took the tough legislation and found the opportunity for innovation hidden within, creating a practical solution to an environmental problem.
- Edible Seaweed Packaging
In Indonesia, a company called Evoware has started producing food packaging and dinnerware made from seaweed. They are edible, biodegradable, and sustainable. Evoware has set out to solve two social issues Indonesia is facing: the prevalence of plastic waste and the plight of the seaweed farmer. This was a huge win for the environment as well as for Evoware. By hooking up their product to address both issues, they have made environmental friendliness tethered to the local economy. Reducing plastic waste in the region by using Evoware’s products helps support the local seaweed farmers.
The more birds you can take down at once, the better. Evoware created a product that tackles multiple issues at once. When it comes to sustainability, shoot for more. Tethering the local economy to environmental issues few people cared about was genius. Indonesia is the second largest contributor to ocean plastic, coming in right behind China. With Evoware and Surabaya’s “bottles for bus rides”, Indonesia has a real shot of greatly reducing the amount of plastic waste they contribute each year.
These inspirational stories of people going above and beyond for the planet just show what people are capable of when they come together and use innovation and creativity to solve real-world issues. More locally, WearPanda, the original bamboo sunglasses brand, has added Kiva to their charitable roster. WearPanda takes their Panda Promise seriously, making sure that every product is made of eco-friendly and sustainable materials. Plus, for every product sold, be it a bamboo watch or sunglasses, it’s guaranteed to give back to someone in need.
Whether it’s crowdsourcing huge environmental change, or helping support those who do by choosing to buy eco-friendly sunglasses instead of cheap, plastic, toss-away frames, anyone can make a positive step toward changing the environment for the better.