Global warming is no new concept yet still, it is a hot topic on the world’s agenda but is it getting the attention it deserves?
In South Africa we are making headway with a sound focus on reducing carbon emissions through carbon taxes, levies on carbon-heavy products and a sound focus on driving the reduce/reuse/recycle, a.k.a. the circular economy model.
Similarly, as South African’s become ever more enviro-conscious, there is resounding pressure on organisations to meet environmental goals and drive real change. This has seen the ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) pillar of business become more prominent – where environmental protection forms a key pillar and collaboratively, can result in long-term performance advantages for businesses. We have also seen a massive shift towards effective eco-innovation policies locally – which sets a benchmark for, and rewards, innovation within the country.
While there is a fundamental change taking place in the way we view the environment locally, this alone is not enough as we need real mindset shifts from consumer-level upward, to witness success. The good news is that, as South African’s, we have a true entrepreneurial spirit. This, coupled with the fact that our economy and unemployment stats are under pressure, means reuse becomes critical to meeting basic needs, and that we have a true advantage – smart innovations are being born from trying to solve these most basic needs.
Let’s take a look at some of the key inventions that could save our planet and change lives!
Locally, we have witnessed the eco-brick movement which meets both the sustainable housing and education facilities demand (to some extent) as well as takes plastic out of the environment and puts it to good use. We have also seen initiatives like the removal of plastic bags from grocery stores and the use of brown paper bags for vegetables for example. However, we have seen other big inventions/innovations too such as refuse-derived fuel and waste to energy projects that are reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and propelling the reuse of previous waste to landfill items.
But it goes beyond this – in Africa, we are seeing things like edible straws, the use of macadamia nut shells being used as activated carbon ﬁlters for solar-powered water filtration systems; a perfect solution for safe water consumption in rural communities, as well as innovations like reused, solar-powered school bags – meeting some of South Africa’s largest challenges.
Globally, there are also some incredible inventions that are changing life as we know it and certainly, in time, these will filter into Africa too. With sea pollution being a massive issue, there are companies who are implementing solutions that ensure ocean litter can be collected and disposed of through what is called the Seabin project. Then, we have a movement towards edible ‘everything’ - edible water blobs made from seaweed reducing the use of plastic bottles and edible cutlery and packaging such as the Saltwater Brewery. And of course, smart solutions to power such as portable 24-hour water turbines and home biogas.
There are so many incredible inventions that are changing the status-quo and driving sustainable solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges and it is great to see that both companies across the globe, as well as eco-warriors in their individual capacity, are not only creating solutions that make sense but, very importantly, creating businesses and employment from these solutions – providing a holistic approach to waste management, access to resources and job creation – a win-win for everyone!
For a quick look at some of the innovations mentioned above, click here.