In the 21st century, being a good steward to the environment gets progressively easier, as companies increasingly roll out “green” products and services that are more eco-friendly than the alternatives. From sellers of the cheapest ink cartridges for printers to manufacturers of public signage, companies across many industries have gotten in on the act. Here are five of the best environmentally friendly innovations they’ve produced so far.
1- Recycled Ink Cartridges
At first glance, recycled ink cartridges (a.k.a. re-manufactured cartridges) don’t seem like they would have a meaningful impact on the environment, but they do. Desktop users have printers connected to their computers at work and home. This means that millions of ink cartridges are in use, cartridges that take between 450 and 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.
Ink cartridges are recycled by cleaning spent cartridges and refilling them with ink. Recycled cartridges perform as well as new cartridges, and there’s an added bonus for economical shoppers: Recycled cartridges commonly cost over 50% less than new ones.
2- Green Industrial Solvents
Many industrial solvents formulated in the 20th Century and before are toxic to humans and the environment — so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the List of Lists, which identifies highly regulated or banned chemicals.
Green solvent makers have stepped in with replacement solutions that work as well as older, hazardous solvents, without posing a major threat to the environment. Eco-friendly solvents fall into one of two categories based on environmental safety: environmentally preferred solvents, which are non-toxic but can be harmful if used in large quantities; and environmentally safe solvents, which are safe to use in almost any quantity, in any setting.
3- Electric Automobiles
The concept of electric vehicles has been around since the late 19th Century, when Englishman Thomas Parker created the first electric car intended for mass production in 1884. Like other early electric car prototypes, Parker’s creation was far ahead of its time, existing in an automotive world dominated by combustion engines.
Today, we find electric cars sold at public auto dealerships. Tesla is a luxury brand whose vehicles typically sell for at least $50,000. If you want something more affordable, the all-electric Bolt EV from Chevy has an MSRP of just over $37,000. Add in the federal tax credit you receive for buying the car, and the starting price is under $30,000.
4- Software as a Service
Over the past 20 years, software as a service (SaaS) has become an industry within itself. Instead of buying a software program and potentially purchasing new hardware to deploy the program in-house, customers receive the software they need on a web-based model. The program is streamed to them over the internet from the location of the service provider.
SaaS benefits the environment by reducing consumption of materials used for manufacturing software and hardware, which helps reduce landfill use and cuts energy consumption by lessening the manufacturing load. SaaS can also save you big bucks. You avoid buying costly software and hardware, and pay a flat, affordable monthly service fee instead.
5- Photo luminescent Signage
Photo luminescent signs are made from material that absorbs photons from sources of light in the surrounding environment. When the signage is enveloped in darkness, it “re-radiates” the photons, creating a bright glow that remains highly visible through smoke and airborne particulate matter.
Photo luminescent signage doesn’t use electricity, and it can last up to 20 years. It saves users money by lowering electricity use. It benefits the environment by being self-sustaining and recyclable. Photo luminescent signage is widely considered the safest building signage for fires, earthquakes, and other emergencies that lead to evacuations. It remains easily visible under most conditions and contains no light bulbs that could malfunction.
A Sustainable Future
If business leaders and everyday consumers alike want to make a difference in our planet’s conditions, forward-looking technology must be able to mitigate our past mistakes while providing solutions that solve everyday needs. From recyclable ink cartridges to digital solutions and sustainable electronics and vehicles, it’s clear that innovation has to start from influencers within the public policy and commercial sectors. When government regulations incentivize Eco-friendly solutions, innovators and customers will certainly follow. As fossil fuel production wains in the coming years, be on the look-out for everyday environmentally-friendly innovations that’ll be commonplace in homes and businesses worldwide.