There are more than 7 billion people on the planet Earth today, according to the website Worldometers. The population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion during the 20th century alone, and right now, the population increase is estimated at 82 million people per year. More frightening is that world population projections indicate that by the year 2055 there will be 10 billion people on the planet and by the year 2088 there will be 11 billion.
Given that our natural resources are limited, that’s a lot of people the planet will somehow need to sustain. Particularly as global warming looms large, humans will be stretching those natural resources to the breaking point, so something needs to be done.
Fortunately, companies are stepping up and inventing things that can help ease the strain on Mother Earth. Take a look at these 20 products that are potentially life-changing — and life-saving — and decide which ones you can use in your daily life to help preserve those precious resources.
A Cloth That Grows Crops Indoors
AeroFarms is a vertical farming startup that uses a proprietary cloth to grow kale and arugula — and mists their roots with nutrients — instead of using soil and lots of water. By growing crops inside, AeroFarms can control the temperature, light and humidity.
According to the company, which was founded in New Jersey in 2011, its farming facilities are “400 times more productive per square foot, by output, than a traditional farm.” It grows its greens in spaces that used to be nightclubs, steel mills, warehouses and paintball centers, and sells them to Whole Foods and FreshDirect, among other grocers.
A Device That Produces Up to 10 Gallons of Drinking Water Per Hour
Access to clean drinking water is a pressing issue now for the human race, and it likely won’t be a problem that solves itself. Enter a group of University of Akron scientists who are diligently working to solve this problem.
The team is using techniques to capture water from the atmosphere in high-altitude locations where it doesn’t frequently rain. They are working on a prototype water harvester that will be able to produce up to 10 gallons of drinkable water per hour — from thin air. The water harvester prototype is designed to work where water resources are limited, and it does it inexpensively and effectively.
A Cooking Method That Will Change Energy Needs
Solar cooking is good for the environment in many ways, including keeping the air cleaner by eliminating black soot and fossil fuel emissions, and saving soil and trees. And Solar Cookers International is making it available. According to the company, one solar cooker preserves more than a ton of wood per year. In addition, it says that three out of seven people lack sustainable fuel to cook meals, and it is helping make that possible with “no-emission, decentralized, free solar energy.” SCI claims that by reducing household air pollution via solar cookers, there is potential to save up to $1.3 billion globally.
A Self-Sustainable Microhome
The Ecocapsule, a compact mobile home, uses solar wind and energy to sustain itself, enabling you to live anywhere off the grid. You don’t need to use traditional power and water supplies because it makes its own from the environment. According to the company, depending on geographic and local conditions, one to two people can use the Ecocapsule for medium-term off-grid living. It can generate power and collect rainwater, and one will cost you 79,900 euros ($90,125), excluding VAT, right now, although the company says the price will go down as production increases.
Agriculture That Combines Fish Farming and Hydroponics
AquaGrow Farms uses aquaponics to grow enough protein and produce to feed thousands every year. At its 800-square-foot farm, it combines fish farming and soil-less agriculture to create a food source — to the tune of 2,500 servings of fish and 28,000 servings of greens annually. The company does it all from six grow beds, three fish tanks and a seedling nursery. It takes 60 days from “seed to table,” and the Canadian company distributes the food it produces to members of the community who have limited access to nutritious food.
A New Waste Recycling System
The HomeBiogas processes food waste that compost traditionally doesn’t, such as fish, meat and fats. From that waste, it produces a “healthy and natural liquid fertilizer which is not made from synthetic chemicals,” which you can use at home instead of store-bought fertilizer that uses harmful chemicals that eventually enter the water supply. In addition, it uses methane gas from the waste as a cooking source, enabling people to not only reduce waste but create sustainable energy for their homes. When you purchase a HomeBiogas system you’ll get a portable biogas stove, and once you get cooking, you’ll be helping to reduce carbon emissions of up to 6 tons a year.
A Plant-Based Material Packaging Solution
Made from brown seaweed and plants, Notpla is a material that naturally biodegrades in just four to six weeks, making it a great replacement for plastic packaging. According to the company, it “doesn’t compete with food crops, doesn’t need fresh water or fertilizer and actively contributes to de-acidifying our oceans.” Ooho is one of Notpla’s products — a flexible packaging material ideal for drinks and sauces — and the packaging is actually edible, making it a perfect replacement for plastic cups and bottles. Just use the sauce or drink that’s in your Ooho, then either eat the “package” itself or throw it in your compost.
A Vegan Burger That Tastes Like the Real McCoy
If you love meat but want to help save the planet, try the Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that really tastes like meat from cows. The company uses soy and potato proteins to make its products, in addition to coconut and sunflower oils to make it juicy and give it that sizzle everyone loves. In addition, a binder often used in ice cream and jam — methylcellulose — brings it all together. With no cholesterol or trans fats and three grams of fiber, the Impossible Burger might be an entirely possible substitution for the real thing.
Ink Made From Air Pollution
Air pollution is another pressing problem today, and AIR-INK aims to help fix it through repurposing carbon rich pollutants to make ink. It recycles soot from industrial air-polluting sources and turns it into high-quality ink, saving it from being dumped into water sources and polluting the planet. By using KAALINK, a “post tailpipe retrofit that works on diesel generators,” the company captures the pollution through filtration technologies that eventually grinds the soot into ink pigment. Although the product is not yet available to consumers, the company is underway putting certification processes in place.
Edible Beer Packaging Rings
Plastic is terrible for the planet — that much everyone agrees on — and each year it kills a significant amount of ocean life, according to Ocean Crusaders. Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida, is doing something to help reduce the use of plastic by using edible six-pack rings for its beer. The rings are completely biodegradable, made from the beer brewing process’ barley and wheat ribbons. If animals encounter the six-pack rings, they can actually eat them. “It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fisherman, surfers and people that love the sea,” said Saltwater Brewery co-founder Peter Agardy in an interview.
A Targeted Pesticide Spraying System
MagGrow is a spraying system that helps farmers target where they need coverage better than traditional crop-spraying technology. According to the company, MagGrow reduces drift up to 70% and increases crop coverage more than 40%. In addition, the system reduces water usage by 25% to 50%, extends spray windows, complies with all legislative and environmental rules and aides in controlling diseases that can occur from smaller spraying droplets.
Drones That Pollinate Flowers
The bee population decline crisis is at an all-time high, spurring a team of Japanese researchers to invent pocket-sized drones to pollinate flowers. The remote-controlled drone is approximately the size of a power adapter, and it is covered with horsehair bristles coated with a gel that enables the drone to act like a honeybee to gather and distribute pollen. By employing the drones to do honeybee work — pollinating fruits, nuts and vegetables — the team hopes to help farmers who are facing production crises.
A Sieve That Can Filter Salt Out of Seawater
United Kingdom researchers created a graphene-based, rigid sieve that filters salt out of seawater, an invention that has the potential to deliver clean drinking water to millions globally. Although there has been some success using water filtration systems before this sieve, graphene is the first material that researchers have identified that does not swell up in water (thanks to a coating of epoxy resin composite) and allows some particles to pass through. This is one timely discovery as climate change could possibly wreak havoc on urban water supplies.
A Trash Skimmer That Cleans Water
The V5 Seabin is designed to skim trash from calm water bodies, such as marinas, ports, etc. This floating garbage bin skims water surfaces by pumping water into itself and cleaning up plastics, floating trash and contaminated organic materials. The Seabin sucks in water from the surface of the marina and it passes through a bag inside the unit; it pumps the water back into the marina and traps the trash. Oil-absorbent pads further clean the water by absorbing detergent- and petroleum-based oil materials. Power for the Seabin comes via a 110V or 220V outlet, and the unit can pick up about 1.4 tons of trash per year.
A Spa Shower That Saves Water
The Nebia Spa Shower has the potential to save millions of gallons of water globally. According to the company, the first unit it debuted (Nebia Shower 1.0) sold to 55 countries and saved 100 million gallons of water. The Nebia Spa Shower 2.0 has new nozzles and is “perfectly positioned to maximize the water that comes into contact with your skin leaving it more hydrated and refreshed,” while saving 65% of the water that regular showers use. The shower features 45 degrees of movement, which makes it easy to shower without wetting your hair, and it has a 25-inch range of height to customize its spray pattern for short and tall family members.
An Ocean Cleanup Project
The ocean trash tracker is an ocean cleanup project designed to rid the oceans of plastic. So far, the nonprofit environmental group Ocean Voyages Institute has removed 40 tons of plastic from the Pacific Ocean, using GPS to track the trash. In 2020, the company plans on a bigger cleanup using 150 reusable trackers, bowling-ball-size units that map the trash’s location in real time. The trackers cost nearly $1,600 apiece, but they are teaching people how trash gathers and travels.
A Straw That Makes Water Safe To Drink
LifeStraw works with governments, donors and consumers to provide the world with safe drinking water. The product utilizes a hollow fiber membrane with microscopic pores that allow water to pass through but keep bacteria and parasites trapped. LifeStraw products come in many forms other than straws, including a 7-cup glass water filter pitcher, a water bottle filter and a water filtration system with a 1-gallon gravity bag. According to the company, it has provided safe water to more than 1 million children globally.
Fabric Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles
Repreve is a high-performance fiber made from plastic bottles and other recycled materials. Some of the leading brands use the fiber to produce fashion and athletic clothing that is durable and water repellent, and it contains features such as adaptive warming and cooling and wicking. The company that makes the fiber, Unifi, claims it has recycled more than 14 million plastic bottles so far — and it aims to recycle 20 billion by 2020. In addition to helping with finding life for recycled materials, making Repreve fiber conserves water and energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases.
Renewable Energy Air Conditioning
Air conditioning is a massive energy suck, and Blue Frontier wants to do something about it. Mistbox is a product made for air-conditioning systems — it’s a small box that clips onto your unit and works to potentially cut your energy bills by 30%. Mistbox lowers the air temperatures around your air-conditioning unit with its four “Mistbars” that spray water, making the air the unit pulls in cool. This, in turn, enables the unit to use less energy and maximize its efficiency. Mistbox uses a thermal battery to store power for times when there isn’t much wind or sun, and it runs on completely renewable energy.
Products That Reduce Plastic Waste
Using fully compostable, biodegradable, renewable and natural ingredients, Avani makes a full line of sustainable packaging and hospitality products for people around the world. Its products include the Bio-Cassava Bag, Bio-Poncho, polylactic acid (PLA) products, bio-paper products, bio-wooden cutlery and bio-boxes. All of the company’s products aim to replace petroleum-based plastic goods. According to Avani, it has replaced over 3 tons of unsustainable products to date, and it plans on doing much more.
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Photo Disclaimer: Please note photos are for illustrative purposes only. As a result, some of the photos might not reflect the actual inventions listed in this article.
About the Author
Barri Segal has 20+ years of experience in the publishing and advertising industries, writing and editing for all styles, genres, mediums, and audiences. She has been writing on personal finance topics for 12 years and gains great satisfaction from making a difference in consumers’ lives.