Save the day—and innovate—with sustainable technology

December 18, 20185 minute read

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If you follow the news even just a little bit, it’s hard to escape the sinking feeling that the planet is in the middle of a serious sustainability crisis. Every day, the challenges the world faces grow starker and more urgent.

At the same time, companies across the globe—especially tech companies—are leading the charge toward a sustainable future, capitalizing on sustainable technology to innovate their businesses as they do so. Here’s what they’re up to and how IT can take a page from their book to make sustainable choices and ensure a better tomorrow for everyone.

How bad is the state of sustainability today?

Honestly, the situation is grim. If this was Avengers: Infinity War, this would be the point at which Nick Fury sends an 8-bit SOS to Captain Marvel with his adorable old-school pager. It’s time to call in the cavalry—now. Not convinced? Here are a few statistics showing just how much is on the line.

In 2018, the world experienced some of the most extreme weather events in history. The wildfire in California, for example, destroyed more than 7,100 structures, with a death toll of 42 according to the latest reports.

And this hit after months of recovering from 2017’s insane year of catastrophic weather events, like Hurricane Maria, which triggered one of the largest migration events in US history, as an estimated 135,000 Puerto Ricans fled to the mainland in a mass exodus—a number still rising to this day.

Meanwhile, a 75 percent drop in the population of insects critical to food systems over the past 27 years has raised fears of an “ecological Armageddon.” A mass food shortage is something nobody wants to experience.

According to the Future Today Institute, an international consortium of scientists called the Anthropocene Working Group has agreed the world has entered a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene. New epochs are usually defined as following a cataclysmic event, like an asteroid crashing into the earth—only this time, the asteroid is humanity.

Bold steps need to be taken now to prevent a truly dystopian future from coming to pass. The good news is several companies are already suiting up and deploying sustainable technology to fight the good fight, and you can, too.

Join the eco-innovation trend

It’s an exciting time, and not just for sustainability nerds—businesses are also getting amped up about eco-innovation. From green energy to AI and biotech, a bumper crop of sustainable technology is about to drive impressive economic growth. In fact, WIRED UK reports the world is entering the early stages of a global sustainability revolution powered by digital innovation.

Renewable energy storage is getting especially strong traction right now:

  • Ressence, a luxury watch maker, is developing a smart watch that collects and stores energy created while you walk—an eco-friendly Fitbit, if you will.
  • Alphabet is tinkering with a clean energy storage technology utilizing salt and antifreeze.

These innovations may be the first steps toward a future in which sustainability by design is a standard feature in technology, similar to how cybersecurity advocates today have called for core technology to be secure by design.

Turn to new tech for your eco-needs

Companies are also enlisting other types of innovative technology to make their core business processes more sustainable, too:

  • Artificial intelligence: Google has tapped its DeepMind AI to make its data centers more efficient, enhancing their sustainability while saving money on energy bills. Using techniques it learned while playing Atari games, DeepMind increased the system’s power usage efficiency by 15 percent.
  • Biotechnology: Genome editing is shifting from the fringe to the mainstream, as countries like China pursue it with zeal. This could one day lead to the development of microfarms housed inside offices and homes, providing food directly to local communities. Vegan startups are also drawing major venture capital interest as they use plant-based ingredients to roll out “clean meat” that could reduce greenhouse emissions.

In short, innovation is proceeding fast and furiously, pointing the way toward a more prosperous and lasting future.

Sustainably innovate your IT operations

As part of the IT team, you can help make your company more sustainable, too. Printers are especially ripe low-hanging fruit, and some simple printing changes can raise your sustainability game. Green printers consume less energy, have fewer parts, and can even automatically shut down when they’re not in use and boot up when the first bleary-eyed cubicle warrior arrives.

You can boost sustainability on a broader level by teaming up with a managed print services provider to streamline and enhance your printing processes from top to bottom, consolidating workflows and maximizing resources to cut down on waste and save money. These partners can help you achieve efficiency in terms of both energy and paper use while also making sure you only use recycled ink cartridges.

IT can take sustainability a step further by using motion sensors to ensure rooms like the data center are only lit when in use, trimming energy costs even further. Soon, you may be able to capitalize on IoT automation to figure out when server loads are lower, gently adjusting energy usage to conserve energy. By leveraging the powerful efficiencies automated solutions offer, you could make sustainability a simple “set it and forget it” part of the company’s office design.

Although there’s no getting around the reality of today’s sustainability crisis, you can make a difference with the aid of smart innovations. Thanks to advancements in green energy, AI, biotech, and more, you have more options than ever for building sustainability into your business, benefiting both the planet and the bottom line. A brighter future for everyone is on the horizon.

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