In 2019 there was increased awareness around several sustainability trends, including circular economy, plastic consumption, and climate change. Today, we’re looking at some of the top trends we expect will see new and continued global growth in 2020.
Waste Becomes the Product
In the past, consumers have been fearful of the ick factor and chose newness over reusability. But in recent years, we’ve seen more and more waste streams become viable sources for new materials. The mainstreaming of waste sources has given the public a new perspective on materials that were once unthinkable–water containers from cow dung, reusable coffee cups from discarded chewed gum, etc.
With the use of new and improved methods of purification and synthesis, contaminants can be removed safely. Several major brands have already on-boarded this trend and are using unexpected waste streams as a unique selling point. With today’s growing consumption levels, this is an excellent way to save reusable materials from ending up in the landfill and give waste a new life.
Protecting the Arctic
Consumer and media awareness about the environmental and social problems associated with ocean plastics reached new heights in 2019. In 2020, we are going to see more work being done to protect our oceans – not just through the selection of plastic alternatives, but also in the way that we handle and transport goods. Study after study reveals the accelerating impact of climate change on the Arctic marine environment.
Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic report card found that the remaining sea ice is, on average, less than half the thickness of sea ice forty years ago. This same decline in sea ice has made the polar routes more appealing to shipping companies. But while these routes can shorten the times between major commercial markets, increasing vessel traffic is a risky prospect for the Arctic. Eight new companies agreed this week not to ship goods through the Arctic Ocean and signed the Arctic Corporate Shipping Pledge launched by Ocean Conservancy and Nike in October 2019. We foresee an even larger wave of companies joining the pledge.
Technology for a Better World
In today’s tech-centric world, where our day can’t start without being in contact with one of the thousands of smart devices surrounding us, the question is do we really need so many new smart, connected technologies? Numerous start-ups and big corporations are challenging this notion by reimagining technology as not just a powerful tool to achieve greater speeds, smarter surfaces or convenience in consumer’s daily lives; but as a meaningful vehicle enabling a constructive disruption for a sustainable future, thus serving a deeper purpose.
This was abundantly clear from last week’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the world’s largest and most influential tech event that technology can be invented and used to unlock breakthrough innovations, redefining industries, creating jobs, and solving many of society’s critical challenges.
This year’s 36 innovation awardees in the Tech for a Better World category, showcased a wide range of intelligent platforms, including embedded gas sensing technologies for human health and safety; the most energy-efficient refrigerator, offering 24 hours of cooling to keep food, medication and fresh produce cold under very harsh tropical conditions; and high tech “office on tracks” used to prepare land, plant seeds, care for plants as they grow and transport grain from the field to a new generation.
This trend is just beginning and we are going to see significant growth in conscious technologies, breaking the status quo to make our planet a better, healthier, and resourceful place.