Turning Food Into Tech
A New Way to Recycle
One of the biggest concerns that environmentally-conscious consumers have when it comes to technology is the impact that tech will have on the environment. We all want to strive for sustainability in our use of new technology, and there are plenty of corporations that seem to agree with that sentiment, too. Here are a few of the ways that certain companies are going green as they develop new ways to incorporate biodegradable materials into their products. This committment to producer responsibility is admirable, even if not all of the kinks have been worked out yet. So let us take a look at the ways different innovative minds have made efforts to bring technology to a sustainable point, as well as the progress that still needs to be made.
Banana-Powered Electric Turbines
Researchers in Australia with the Growcom project developed a way to take decomposing banana peels and use the leftovers to release methane, powering electric turbines. This is very useful for countries that grow large quantities of bananas, including Australia, which unfortunately wastes about 20% of its banana crop each year. But using a process called anaerobic digestion, banana farmers and energy concerns have spent years developing a way to transform all this waste product into potential electric energy. And with the resources in place now to produce 85,000 cubic meters of methane, Growcom alone is capable of generating about 35,000 kilowatts of power. Once they refine and expand the technology further, it is likely they will get even better returns on the energy input. Which is necessary, because previous results required about 132 pounds of bananas to power a typical household appliance for about a day.
CDs Made Out of Corn
The Ideal Way to Listen to Korn?
A standard compact disc is not exactly biodegradable, but the MildDiscs developed by Sanyo are considerably less toxic for the Earth. These are compact discs that have been developed from a corn-based polymer, and they naturally decompose after 50 to 100 years (so make sure you create a back-up before then!). Since only 85 kernels are needed to manufacture one of these MildDiscs, a single ear of corn can make up to 10 CDs. Sanyo's process for manufacturing the compact discs is also interesting. First, they mill the corn and separate the starch, which is processed to get unrefined dextrose. This dextrose is fermented, and the result is a polyactic acid that is used as a polymer for MildDiscs.
When regular CDs need to be disposed of, the polycarbonate used in their production has to be incinerated at extremely high temperatures, and the chemicals released during this process can cause an increase in air pollution. But the polyactic acid from corn kernels used in MildDiscs is broken down in soil into carbon dioxide and water much more safely. The only downside to this new technology? The MildDiscs developed by Sanyo are about three times as expensive as a normal CD, so you will have to pay a bit more to go green in this case.
Sunflower Seed Cell Phones
Plant a Phone, Grow a Flower
As one of the most frequently updated pieces of technology a person owns, and therefore also the most frequently discarded, cell phones have a history of being a bit of a problem when it comes to being an environmentally-friendly fan of technology. But at least one phone manufacturer has attempted to do something about it.
With the help of British scientists, phone manufacturer Motorola developed a novel way to recycle old cell phones. How did they do it? By putting a seed in the biodegradable plastic shell, which feeds of nitrates released during decomposition, and then germinates. This wild idea is the result of research done by scientists at the University of Warwick, done in conjunction with PVAXX Research and Development, Ltd. But as good as the idea sounds at first, one of the remaining problems with planting a cell phone or otherwise sticking it into the ground is the proper disposal of the rare heavy metals in every mobile, which can cause serious problems with groundwater pollution. After all, only the case can be probably disposed of when it comes to these Sunflower-sprouting cell phones. All the electronics and metals inside need to be properly disposed of in other ways.
Hopefully, scientists will find a way to take care of that issue with something as simply poetic as the sunflower approach. Until then, there are other alternatives for disposing of your old cell phone instead of just chucking it in the garbage. First of all, you can sell it online to a new user, donating it to organizations that will find a new home for it, or contacting your phone service provider to see if they offer an environmentally-safe recycling option. You might also want to check out this article on ways to safely recycle your old electronic devices.
An Earthy Look and Sound
Japanese company Bird Electron was among the first companies to use hollow dry gourds as speaker casings, a unique way to appreciate your favorite music. Another early pioneer in this field was designer David Ellis, but the results were not cheap: about $1,200 for a pair of dried gourd speakers. But this is a project you might even be capable of taking on yourself, if you have the do it yourself mindset properly in place. And while it putting your sound system inside of a gourd probably will not save the environment, it has to beat chopping down a tree to make the wooden casings for tower speakers.
Other Ways to Recycle
While none of these ideas can replace personal responsibility when it comes to minimizing your carbon footprint and staying environmentally conscious, they do make it look like many companies are headed in the right direction for sustainable initiatives for technology products. If you know of any other green gadgets, or just want to share which of these tech ideas is your favorite, do not hesitate to share in the comments below!