OK, the name sounds good, but what’s hiding behind that buzzword? Many popular beliefs, “catch-all” phrase, but not necessarily a lot of knowledge!
The “Cleantech Initiative” invites you to banish misconceptions and find out more about these famous Cleantechs!
The Cleantechs are the technologies, products and services which enable lower negative environmental impacts associated with human activities through a combination of:
More energy-efficient processes
Economical use of resources
Preservation of the environment
You feel guilty when you drive your car alone for five kilometers while, honestly, there are plethora of alternatives?
You end up throwing the old clothes that you crammed for 5 years in your closet because you do not know how to give them a second life?
You’re tired of seeing bits of plastic floating in the ocean while you dreamed of turquoise water on a sandy beach?
The tomato you buy in the supermarket has traveled thousands of kilometers to get to your plate and does not taste like one?
You’re not alone wondering about this: Cleantechs are here to help us!
# 1. Electric cars’ range is too limited to be viable
At a time when cars are responsible for about 27% of CO2 emissions in the world, the question of transports’ “greenification” naturally arises.
So what are we waiting for to drive electric cars and thus reduce decisively our carbon footprint?
The electric cars’ range is often a brake in the customers’ minds. Current electric vehicles have a range of at least 150 kilometers. How many of us travels this distance during daily commutes? 77% of French (82% of Europeans) travel less than 100 kilometers a day, and fast charging technologies like Tesla superchargers enable the vehicle to recover up to 270 km range within 30 minutes.
Range is continuously improving, with recent models like the Opel Ampera-e or Tesla Model X / S, which respectively offer a range of 500 km and 542 km.
Automotive OEMs and leading suppliers are heavily investing in R&D to be at the forefront and offer ever more efficient vehicles. The Tesla’s factory of lithium-ion batteries, the Gigafactory, should enable the manufacturer to meet the needs of batteries required for an annual production of 500,000 vehicles. According to its founder and CEO Elon Musk 100 Gigafactories could power the world. Under optimal conditions, electric cars will have a range of up to 1,000 kilometers by 2020.
However, considering the high carbon footprint associated with the production of lithium-ion batteries and the issue of recycling, it is essential to continue to explore other types of engines and fuels, which include the hydrogen fuel cell that uses hydrogen as fuel and generates electricity, but also graphene, a material whose properties are highly promising, aluminum-graphite batteries or bioelectrochemical batteries.
To follow closely!
# 2. The LED lamps will create a dim light, sorry but nothing like a good old halogen bulb.
You imagine the LEDs produce this horrible light, the one you find in hospitals or in airport toilets? Well, that’s not true.
LEDs (standing for Light-Emitting Diodes) are actually able to mimic natural light (so that photosynthesis can be possible with LED lighting!), and to produce a warm light.
Light has different color temperatures, in degrees Kelvin (K). You just need to choose the most suitable to the desired atmosphere.
In addition to consuming less electricity than traditional bulbs for equivalent lighting, LED lights have a life span 5 to 10 times longer. The French start-up Lucibel understands the benefits of LED technology and even uses it as a communication vector: the Lifi (Light Fidelity) is a communication technology by the modulated LED light that allows a data exchange between a specific LED lighting and a computer, making it possible to access the internet!
# 3. Organic food is a luxury for consumers in developed countries!
Organic is good, it is in tune with the times, for a small portion of the world population. Is it a luxury for the wealthy urban housewife? Or is organic agriculture destined to be tomorrow’s agriculture adopted in all regions of the world?
Organic agriculture is a production method that uses agricultural and livestock practices that respect the natural equilibrium. It therefore bans the use of GMOs, synthetic chemicals and limits the use of inputs. It also promotes modern ecological innovations.
This is all well and good, but what is the productive efficiency of organic compared to conventional agriculture?
It is not far behind: according to many studies, performance is only 20% lower on average. In fact, this is not really the issue, since it is important to think long term. The transition to organic is a necessity, given its positive externalities!
Our three challenges:
1 / technical innovation to improve yields, hence the important role of cleantech
2 / waste reduction (today one third of the world production for consumption is lost)
3 / preserve our soils and ecosystems.
Quite something !
# 4. There are no viable alternatives to plastic bags, the only solution is to ban them
Many startups are focused on the topic of plastic bags, always helpful when you’re at the supermarket checkout loaded like a mule, and you forgot your bag, again!
As everyone knows, these famous bags take years to decompose and pollute our land, rivers and oceans. In the world 160,000 bags are used per second and only 1% is recycled.
What should one do? Some initiatives address recycling, as PlasticOdyssey, while others invent new products that revolutionize the market and become viable alternatives to plastic bags.
Avani, for example, sells a bag made of cassava, which dissolves completely in water within seconds. You can even drink it if you’d like!
# 5. Buying recycled clothing? Thanks-but-no-thanks, don’t want them to fall apart after three months.
The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil. More than 70 million trees a year are cut down and used to produce the fabric.
Not so trendy … Many fashionistas and brands realize it and begin to create ranges or recycled clothing brands.
Eco-friendly products become an important differentiating tool for brands such as H & M, Levi’s or Patagonia and real opportunities for business start-ups as Hopaal, Reformation,or Fabscrap. New technologies and recycling processes appear and reinvent ways to produce with recycled materials.
There are products matching your taste whatever it may be, and you will not even notice the difference. Tested and approved!
# 6. I cannot grow vegetables since I live in a city! And fruits with carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter? No thanks!
Dear city dweller, know that even if you feel your connection with nature is close to nil these days, you can fix it!
Rural exodus, famous concept largely rehashed at school, leads to concentration of population in cities and increasingly remote agricultural areas. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on our beloved planet, including 75% in cities. Transport is polluting, expensive and detrimental to the flow of traffic. So why not produce in town?
If urban agriculture was set up in cities around the world, it would produce 10% of world production of vegetables, roots and tubers and also contribute to transforming the urban air full of CO2 into breathable oxygen.
Urban agriculture is the niche of Laurus in Buenos Aires, or of Urban Farmers in the Netherlands! Kale on your own roof, what a dream!
# 7. There are no effective solutions in the fight against air pollution! Let’s enjoy the anti-pollution masks and indoor sports.
Pollution is responsible for 9% of mortality in France, 10 times more than road accidents. Beyond the control measures of city traffic, which does not appeal to all citizens (and that’s an understatement), it is urgent to find sustainable solutions!
What is the role of cleantech in that space? Invent solutions to reduce air pollution. To that end, the Roosegaarde Studio develops a 7 meter high aluminum “SmogFree Tower” which can absorb the pollution clouds, purifying 30,000 m3 per hour for a limited consumption of electricity.
Chinese researchers have also developed the world’s largest air purifiers that are still at the experimental stage but which should be highly effective!
Wearing anti-pollution masks will ideally become a bad memory and fantasy clothing accessory (check Wair if you want to buy some)!
# 8. Solar is not profitable, install a solar power plant without receiving government subsidies? It will never work!
Strictly speaking, this statement could have worked a few years ago. However, today, you can forget it! We are closer than ever to grid parity.
What does it mean ? When the photovoltaic electricity generation price is at or below the conventional electricity selling prices, subsidies are not necessary anymore.
Thanks to the continued decline in the price of solar production (average 72% drop in the price per megawatt since 2009), grid parity has been reached in about 80% of the world (Japan, Germany, Chile, Mexico,..) and other parts of the world should follow in the near to medium term.
Despite recent technological advances, photovoltaic technology still presents some limitations.
Solar, however, is one of the most promising energy source necessary to reach our environmental and social objectives, and attracts more and more investors globally.
# 9. Reduce my water consumption is a marginal action which has no impact on the areas affected by drought.
Water consumption is mainly due to industrial processes related to the production of goods, a concept known as virtual consumption. If this “hidden” industrial use requires improved practices, many solutions can help reduce direct consumption significantly in our daily lives.
Regarding our direct consumption, clean technologies are invented to reduce or optimize water consumption. Pulse Eco Shower, for example, revolutionizes the shower head with up to 60% water savings while maintaining the same pressure (very important!).
Often it seems, in developed countries at least, that our impact is not as significant as we see no change in our everyday lives.
But let us remind you that the areas where water is scarce are the ones producing most of the goods consumed in developed countries. The way we consume pressurizes water resources in exporting countries.
If you have 2 minutes (in truth 6), look at this video from UNESCO that explains very well how water is used and the concept of “water footprint.”
In short: although the impact is not always and easily visible, a consumption effort (in water, meat, textile, whatever), will have a meaningful impact for the 2.7 billion people who suffer at least one dry month per year.
If everyone starts acting, we can take up this historic challenge!!
Follow the Cleantech Initiative to learn more about these topics!