Cutting Carbon Emissions

Every year governments and private investors meet to make a commitment to fund clean energy research. I recently watched a paradoxical documentary on how the so called green companies are in-fact not truly green and it really opened my eyes towards how stuff is being manufactured. Energy alone isn’t a factor affecting how much carbon we produce.

There’s a book I’d recommend reading titled “Sustainable Materials with both eyes open” led by researchers Julian Allwood and Jonathan Cullen. Half way through, I started skimming through it because of the sheer volume of data, but it still was quite conclusive in its assessments. The book focuses on the five materials accounting for more than 50% of the world’s industrial carbon emissions; namely steel, cement, paper, plastic and aluminium. Steel is heavily utilized in construction and the demand has been increasing at an exponential rate. However, producing steel puts a strain on our natural resources in addition to affecting climate change.

Sustainable Materials - With Both Eyes Open (Without the Hot Air) by  Allwood, Julian M., Cullen, Jonathan M. (April 1, 2012) Paperback: Books
Is there a sustainable and efficient way to manufacture these materials without destroying the environment?

It isn’t about efficiency but more about effectiveness of the process. Efficiency gains alone will not help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The problem the authors describe in their book is of the growing demand exceeding the rate of reduction of carbon emission through efficiency gains. which the authors attribute to looking “with one eye open”. We need to also think about how to utilize lesser material as well and consider more sustainable, long lasting products that can be recycled and reused. By looking with both eyes open – using less material and producing more sustainable products, we can make a better impact in combating climate change.

Can we really reduce the use of materials ? 

In the book, the authors cite an example of how some materials in buildings or cars when discarded are still usable. However it is overlooked. Recycling expends energy in contrast to reusing. If you throw out your old refrigerator, the steel is probably still in good condition. But scavenging usable components isn’t practical. This is where technology can assist us in tracking product history and match supply with demand.

But matching up buyers and sellers is hard. Who has the time to look around for someone who might want pieces of your old refrigerator? This is an area where technology can help by tracking product history and matching supply with demand. New construction tech that allows dismantling buildings is a step forward in this direction.

We can continue living th way we do or change now. We owe it to the future generations.