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9 sustainable solutions you will see in the future
By Matthias Krause
Published June 17, 2014
Tags: Design, Desktops & Laptops, More...

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For the third year now the international think tank
Sustainia has released its “Sustainia100” guide.
The idea behind the competition is to identify the
100 most promising sustainability solutions from
around the world. With a focus on advocating
readily available, financially viable and scalable
innovations, Sustainia's mission is to mature
markets for sustainable products and services.



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Honorary Chair of Sustainia, former California
governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, heads the
selection committee that also includes former
Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem
Brundtland, E.U. Commissioner of Climate Action
Connie Hedegaard and Chair of the U.N. climate panel, IPCC, Rajendra K. Pachauri.
We hereby present nine of the most interesting projects:

1. Smart windows: Dynamic Glass saves energy and emissions
There is a reason most modern office buildings feature an abundance of glass: Natural light and expansive
views enhance both creativity and productivity. But there is a downside: Conventional glass at times tends to
let too much sun into a building which heats it up. At other times, valuable heating energy literally goes out
the window. The U.S. Green Building Council estimates that buildings in the U.S. account for 70 percent of
the country's electricity load and emit more carbon dioxide than cars or the industrial sector.

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This is where smart glass can have a big impact. “Dynamic
Glass,” as the Milpitas, Calif.-based manufacturer View Inc.
calls its product, automatically adjusts to the amount of
light and heat it lets pass into building. That's made
possible by an electrochromic coating between two layers
of glass that can be dimmed by applying a small current.
Albeit expensive, smart glass saves heating, ventilation, air
conditioning and lighting costs. “Dynamic Glass” can
reduce energy consumption by up to 20 percent in a typical
commercial installation, View states.


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View Glass at the Community Medical Center, Clovis,
CA (Credit: View)

2. Promising plastic: AirCarbon eats greenhouse gases
What if your new plastic garden chairs not only were not made from oil but actually captured greenhouse
gases in the production process? While that might sound too good to be true, it's exactly what Newlight
Technologes in Irvine, Calif., does. The company produces AirCarbon, a carbon-negative plastic that uses
carbon from methane and other greenhouse gases from the air. AirCarbon is being produced on a
commercial scale at two production sites in California, and is used to make chairs, bags and cell phone
cases. Costumers include Sprint, Dell and giants in the furniture and packaging industries.
According to Sustainia100, both the research firm Trucost and the National Science Foundation,
independently have verified that the products made from AirCarbon are actually carbon-negative, even after
calculating the emissions from the energy used in the production process.

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“Climate change can be solved with market-driven solutions like AirCarbon to reverse the flow of carbon,”
said Newlight Technologies Co-Founder and CEO Mark Herrema.
His company estimates that if 63 percent of global fossil fuel-based plastics were replaced with carbonnegative plastic, it would capture enough carbon on an annual basis to stabilize climate change by 2050.
3. Old phone for cash: automated e-Waste recycling kiosk
Sprint's AirCarbon-based iPhone case (Credit: Sprint)

We have to admit: The lifespan even of our most
beloved electronic gadgets is short. As a result,
outdated cellphones, tablets and MP3 players
either pile up somewhere in a garage or, worse
yet, end up as e-waste in a landfill. Unless, of
course, we can bring ourselves to hunt down one

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9 sustainable solutions you will see in the future |
of the recycling centers that accept electronics
(and might charge us for it). The Bellevue, Wash.based Outerwall Inc. offers a new solution for the
common problem: EcoATM, the first automated ewaste recycling station. The 900 recycling kiosks
that have been set up in the U.S. so far not only
accept old phones, tablets and MP3 players, they
even offer cash in exchange.

Here is how it works: When a device is deposited
into an EcoATM kiosk, it is scanned for type, serial
number and condition. The EcoATM will then
search for the highest price among a network of
buyers, and ask if you agree to sell your device. If
so, money is exchanged on the spot after proof of identity is provided. Outerwall makes sure that the phones
are reused and recycled, keeping tons of potentially toxic waste out of landfills. According to Sustainia100,
EcoATM already has found a second life for 75 percent of the more than 2 million collected devices, and has
recycled the rest.
4. Stop the leak: PowWow Energy detects damaged irrigation systems
Not only in times of severe droughts like the one plaguing California for four years in a row, leaking irrigation
systems are an expensive problem for farmers and ranchers and a serious issue for the environment. The
California start-up PowWow Energy tackles the problem in a smart and unique way.
By analyzing the data from the smart meters for the electrical pumps, a sophisticated software detects
electric signatures that are characteristic of a leak and alters farmers and ranchers by sending them a text

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Using the data from already installed smart meters makes investments in expensive water meters
unnecessary. PowWow Energy estimates that the first leak it detected in a pilot trial would have wasted
about 12,000 gallons of water and 800 kWh of energy. For its idea the company won last year's Clean Tech
Open Grand Prize.

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5. Realizing the potential: BEI software combats energy
inefficient buildings
Enhancing the energy efficiency of commercial buildings
drives down their maintenance costs and is good for the
environment. But the up-front investment can be high. So
it's smart to strictly prioritize such investments in order to
get the most bang for the buck. This is where the Boston


start-up Retroficiency shines with its Building Efficiency
Intelligence (BEI) platform. BEI analyzes either interval
consumption data or building asset data to create a living
energy model of each building. Utilities and energy service
Rendering of an EcoATM kiosk (Credit: EcoATM)

providers can then leverage those data to convert them into
energy savings projects that maximize the return of investment.

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“Buildings offer a huge opportunity for energy savings that hasn't been fully realized,” says Bennet Fisher,
Retroficieny's co-founder and CEO. The company estimates that energy efficiency retrofits for buildings have
the potential to yield as much as $1 trillion in energy savings over the coming decade.
6. Hello, sunshine: LightCatchers switch off the light bulb
The sight is all but too common: While the sun shines bright outside, the insides of warehouses and other
commercial spaces are lit artificially, consuming electricity and creating an unpleasant work environment.
Belgium company EcoNation has a better solution. It offers to install LightCatchers, smart skylights with a
sensor that tracks the sun, and a mirror system that optimizes the amount of daylight entering a building.
The skylights are also able to diffuse the light and reflect heat, avoiding high temperatures and blinding sun
spots on bright days. As a result, electric lights can be switched off that otherwise would have burned the
whole day.
EcoNation estimates that customers can expect to reduce their electricity consumption by 20 percent to 50
percent after switching to LightCatcher. Per 1,000 square meters of industrial floor surface, the technology
can save up to 50,000 kWh and reduce up to 40 tons of CO2 per year, the company claims. EcoNation offers
a package with on upfront costs where the consumer repays the investment with monthly payments that are
supposed to be lower than the old electricity bill.
An illustration of the LightCatcher mirror-in-a-dome system
(Credit: EcoNation)

7. Fairphone: make your smartphone ethical
No later than 2010, when the news about riots
and suicides at Apple's Chinese suppler Foxconn
broke, we know that our smart phones might have
some ethical baggage coming with them. For
those looking for a socially responsible solution,
the Dutch non-profit Fairphone offers an
alternative. Driving sustainability through the
supply chain, the social enterprise focuses on the
full lifespan of a smartphone — from responsible
mining to reuse and recycling.
The initial product run of 25,000 smartphones in
November sold out in Europe. A second



9 sustainable solutions you will see in the future |
production run is on its way with about 14,000 of
35,000 Fairphones per-ordered. Delivery is
scheduled to begin in July. The second
generation device costs $310, with each dollar
accounted for in a cost breakdown. Fairphone
also reserves $3 from every sold phone to set up
new business models for safer e-waste recycling.
8. Hold the textile industry accountable: Labor
Link empowers workers
Every now and again the fashion industry faces
scrutiny for unhealthy and unethical working
conditions in its factories in developing countries
as well as polluting the environment in the
process of production. The U.S. non-profit Good
World Solutions tries to use the power of mobile
phones to empower the textile industry workers.

“Our vision is that one day any worker globally can anonymously report on their environment and working
conditions,” said Heather Franzese, Good World Solutions' executive director.
The system called Labor Link is voice-based, does not require literacy and operates in any language.
Workers answer short, multiple-choice surveys and receive educational messages about their rights and
local services. Surveys cover every aspect of working conditions and sustainability. Labor Link reports that its
data has helped address sexual harassment, workers being denied legally mandated health benefits and
child labor violations. Cell phone company Vodafone estimates that by 2020 Labor Link has the potential to
benefit 18 million workers globally.
9. Trees in the desert: the Waterboxx that just
needs to be filled once
Planting trees in desert areas is very
maintenance-intensive, costly or simply seems
impossible. But the Dutch company Groasis says
it can be done — with a one-time dose of 15 liters
of water, no less. The secret to success is the
Waterboxx, a planting technology for eroded, rocky,
dry and deserted areas. The design makes sure
that the water is only slowly released into the soil
surrounding the seeds. At the same time rain and
condensation are collected in the box. This way, a
heavy rain shower of just 10 minutes once a year The Waterboxx (Credit: PDQuesnell via Flickr)
can be sufficient for the long-term survival of the
According to the company, the average survival rate for the trees is over 90 percent, no matter how difficult
the circumstances. From the second year onwards, water savings become 100 percent compared to other
methods as no artificially added water is used.
“If the 2 billion hectares of man-made deserts was small enough to cut, it is certainly small enough to
replant,” said Groasis founder Pieter Hoff.
Top image of Fairphone via Fairphone
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Matthias B. Krause is a Berkeley, Calif.-b ased journalist covering energy, technology,
b usiness and the environment. Previously he served as executive editor for the solar power
magazine PHOTON USA. His work also has appeared in a wide variety of pub lications in
the U.S. and in Germany such as Green Tech Media, Vanity Fair Germany and Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung.
Read more from Matthias Krause.

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9 sustainable solutions you will see in the future |
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Marty Mizera ·

Top Commenter

Only #9 is worthwhile, the rest are like putting a lipstick on a pig.
Reply · Like ·
Jim Corcoran ·

3 · June 17 at 8:32am
Top Commenter · 129 followers

"A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar
investment in solar energy." ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy
"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human
appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of
environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh
water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice,
the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is
Meat Sustainable?"
“If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and
grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million
cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund
If Al Gore can do it, you can too! Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet
Reply · Like ·

2 · June 17 at 3:12pm

Marty Mizera ·

Top Commenter

The numbers sounds farfetched - what assumptions ?
Reply · Like · June 18 at 7:13am
Jim Corcoran ·

Top Commenter · 129 followers

Marty Mizera Not farfetched at all. Watch Cowspiracy when it comes out next
month to find out more about this issue.
Reply · Like · June 18 at 7:19am
Marty Mizera ·

Top Commenter

Jim Corcoran I'd rather do my own calculations, but at the replacement cost of
roughly 1200 eu/kWh(e), renewables are rather cost-effective. I'm just afraid the
above statement is some journalist's sloppy idea of a comparison.
Reply · Like · June 18 at 7:24am
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