Greentechnology.org defines green technology as a field that “encompasses a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products.” They also state green technology goals are sustainability, “cradle to cradle” (products that can be fully recycled/reused), source reduction, innovation and viability. Green technology can include energy generation, construction of green buildings, developing methods of production with the smallest environmental impact, green chemicals, and green nanotechnology.
The Facts on File Dictionary of Environmental Science also differentiates between “dark green technology” and “light green technology”. What’s the difference? Light green technology consists of applications or innovations with unintentional but real environmental benefits. In other words, it’s a product or production method that was developed for another purpose, but just happens to be good for the environment, or saves energy. Dark green technology is an application or innovation that has direct and intentional environmental benefit.
There are several examples of green technology in products being developed recently.
From the Consumer Electronics Show of 2012: The Samsung NC215s, a solar powered netbook, iNature, an iPhone cover made out of 100% biodegradable bioplastic, and a solar powered Kindle cover, from SolarFocus. There’s also the EcoATM, a self-serve kiosk that pays for used electronics. The 2013 CES had the Eton BoostSolar battery pack, a solar-powered battery back, and the Eversense programmable thermostat, which is set to come on and go off not by the time of day, but by the goings and comings of people in the house by tracking their mobile phones.
Another innovation is the Grow bike, designed by Orbea. Grow won the Good Design Award, chosen by the Chicago Athenaeum, in the Children’s Products category. The Orbea web site states, “The Grow range of children’s products comprises three bike models that can be adjusted and grow bigger as kids get older. This concept, which had received the Delta de Oro award in Spain, aims at being ecologically responsible. Since the Grow can be adjusted in size, it lasts longer, which means it’s not disposed of soon, thus reducing waste.”
However, the problem has been that innovations can be costly and sometimes just not profitable enough to make it in the marketplace. Several clean energy companies have had financial problems, for example. Some companies who received federal loans or grants never turned a profit, or produced much power. It remains to be seen if clean energy is too expensive to be viable, or if this is just a slow start on a promising future technology. After the soaring crude oil prices of last couple of years, some are all the more eager to invest in alternative energy.
To encourage innovation, the U.S. Department of Energy holds a bi-annual Solar Decathlon. The program challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The next event will take place Oct. 3–13, 2013.
Ikea announced in October 2012 that it plans to be energy independent by 2020. The company currently has solar panels on top of 34 of its 38 U.S. stores and distribution centers and plans to install more. Ikea would also like to build a wind farm in the U.S. Steve Howard, Ikea Group’s chief sustainability office, indicated that the company seeks to be more green technology responsible, but also to insulate itself from future high energy costs.