The Great Climate Awakening
In the late 2000's, a great awakening seemed to occur in that the realities of climate change as a result of greenhouse gases. While the coronavirus became the immediate crisis at hand, the climate crisis still continued. 2020 recorded some of the most severe wildfires, the hottest temperatures, and the most devastating hurricane seasons, further signaling a dire need to optimize consumer products for sustainability.
I've learned and unlearned a lot since I started Planet Pods in 2019. My initial concern was the impact that plastic packaging had on the ecosystem after products were disposed. While packaging waste is a major environmental concern, there are numerous sources that are impact the environment. These resources range from electricity, transportation, agriculture, and even building infrastructure. In order to truly be a brand of sustainability, each touchpoint needs to optimize for the most effective use of resources.
The Drawdown Review was recently published in 2020 and outlines an extensive list of ways to limit, and even eradicate, greenhouse gases entirely. This review is worth downloading as it demonstrates opportunities for entrepreneurs to enter the market with new technologies that have immense economic viability.
As we embark into 2021, it's important to consider and place emphasis on products being engineered to reduce greenhouse gases. A warming of even one or two degrees is a major concern because as ecosystems become unbalanced, living on earth also becomes more difficult for living species. These products are the beginning of a long list, but are vital to consider as a means of reducing emissions and sustaining a livable environment.
Electric Cars & Trucks
There was a point in recent history where people believed that battery-powered cars could never match the power of a conventional gas engine.
Elon Musk challenged these assumptions when he joined the electric car company, Tesla, in 2003. Starting with the roadster--a high powered electric sports car--Tesla has shown that going electric can actually produce better vehicles that won't pollute the environment simultaneously. The company has had an exponential growth in a short time, as it is now among the largest companies on the S&P 500.
Electric vehicles have become so popular, in fact, that notorious gas-guzzling brand General Motors has resurrected the late Hummer truck to be an all-electric vehicle. The Hummer EV will launch in 2022 and will likely go head-to-head with it's futuristic competitor, the Cybertruck.
As temperatures rise across the globe, so will the need to keep people cool as a reprieve from extreme weather. This will also lead to the need to cut energy costs. We will need to upgrade roof, window and wall insulation to cut down energy outputs from air conditioning. The white roof was shown by the Berkley Lab to reflect up to 80% of sunlight, as compared to darker roofs which absorbs about the same amount.
Another way to effectively use roof space is through green roofs. These roofs use soil and vegetation as living insulation. Although the cost may be higher for upfront installation, these roofs can be used to reduce costs such as heating and ventilation loads, reducing emissions, and having a nice place to read a book on a summer day.
The animal agriculture industry has a horrifying impact on the environment. Not to mention, the concept of ingesting meat from another living species feels somewhat revolting [my opinion]. Old habits die hard for some people, and it took inventing a burger alternative that tastes exactly like beef to ween the people off their dead meat affinity.
All jokes aside, plant-based diets are known to increase metabolism, energy, and even longevity.
New research supports that if we can slow the loss of our Telomeres, through adopting a plant-based diet, we can also live longer and healthier lives, even preventing certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia. Not only does plant-based eating support a healthier heart but it also works against everyday infections by decreasing inflammation across every part of the body.
The alternative milk industry has been growing for some time, though the oat milk alternative just recently came to market as an even more eco-friendly option to almond and soy milk. Oats require less water than both plants and thus offers us an even more ecological option for our cereals and coffees.
Still not convinced? Oat milk does everything that regular milk says it can provide--high in fibre and vitamins, regulates blood sugar levels, and strengthens bones. Now regularly available, oat milk is a great alternative to your cookie dipping obsession.
The evolution of technology has had a substantial impact on how businesses work and schools educate. It took a pandemic to shed light on the fact that technology can actually work better than having people commute and work in an office.
With transportation constituting such a large piece of emissions, cutting out the commute and using telepresence tools like Zoom and Skype will inevitably help lower carbon emissions.
In order to maintain forestation, switching to faster growing plants that require fewer resources. Bamboo has proven to be a strong alternative as the plant behaves more like grass than trees. Nonetheless, it is worth considering bamboo alternative products in place of pine or cotton products. Bamboo is now readily available for products such as one-time use papers, cloth, and napkins.
Most plastics are made from fossil fuels, but bioplastics utilize plants as an alternative source of carbon. There are a wide range of sources for bioplastics such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, sawdust, recycled food waste, and even algae.
One advantage to bioplastics is that they have composting qualities that can reduce the amount of plastic pollution that enters aquatic environments, thus reducing methane-producing leachate.
Companies such as Lego are reinventing their products made from bioplastics from Sugarcane and other renewable materials. Although these efforts may appear small at first, the more companies that are willing to adapt, the closer we will get to a drawdown.
Walkable cities use planning, design, and density to maximize walking and minimize driving, especially for commuting. Emissions decrease as pedestrians take the place of cars. Architects also refer to this style as a continuous city, and many cities in Europe are formatted the same as a walkable city, thus proving this concept is feasible and worth exploring in places experiencing new development (ie Detroit, Austin, Des Moines).
Walkable cities also reduce noise pollution, maximize road space, and shift land back to green space and wildlife habitats.
When starting Planet Pods, I learned that the water component in cleaning components is almost always non-additive to the performance and instead is strategic for maximizing profits. Larger product sizes can sometimes be purposeful to appear to give consumers the biggest bang for their buck. But, as we have shown, bigger isn't necessarily better.
Comparatively, by removing water components and adding concentrate, we were able to maximize the value for the actual product objective. We include only cleaning agents so that the cleaning power can be used directly to the surface, rather than wasting in diluted water.
Thermostats are mission control for space heating and cooling. Smart thermostats use algorithms and sensors to become more energy efficient over time, lowering emissions.
New thermostat tech includes demand response options. These options will automatically reduce consumption at times of peak energy use, peak prices, and peak emissions, to alleviate energy costs.
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are the most energy-efficient bulbs available. Unlike older technologies, they transfer most of their energy use into light, rather than waste heat- making it about 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs.
Switching to Better Materials
Small changes make a big difference, if everyone does their part. In the coming years we will see new markets opened up by our evolving environment, that offer inventors new and complex problems to solve and improve the common good. When shopping next, take a moment to review the materials, where it is made, and how to dispose, as a means of gauging which products are worth purchasing both for you and the environment.
Emilie Scott founded Planet Pods in 2019 in effort to evolve consumer products and packaging for sustainability and environmental protection. Planet Pods started with a multi-purpose cleaner and has since been expanding to provide more lowered-carbon everyday goods.
Follow our journey @planetpods on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest.