As the world becomes more aware of the impact of human activities on the environment, there has been a growing interest in eco-friendly and sustainable technology.
This article will explore the concept of what is sustainable technology and its trends, the hidden costs of new technology, and why we should care about sustainable technology. We will also discuss great examples of sustainable technology implementation, such as renewable energy sources and green construction, and how to build sustainable apps and software.
What Is Sustainable Technology?
The concept of sustainable technology denotes innovations that recognize the utilization of resources to advance social and economic progress. The objective is to develop products that are harmless to the environment and ecological equilibrium. This includes the use of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient products, green buildings, sustainable agriculture practices, waste management systems, and eco-friendly transportation systems.
How does sustainable technology differ from conventional technology?
|Type of Impact||Sustainable Technology||Conventional Technolog|
|Environmental impact||Designed to reduce its negative impact on the environment.||Often prioritize functionality and efficiency without considering environmental consequences.|
|Carbon footprint||Aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.||Often contributes to climate change through its use of fossil fuels and other emissions.|
|Lifecycle||Considers the entire lifecycle of a product or service, from raw materials to disposal, to minimize its environmental impact at every stage.||Only focuses on the immediate use phase.|
|Resource conservation||Uses fewer resources and produces less waste.||Often consumes more resources and produces more waste.|
|Long-term impact||Promote sustainable development and conserve natural resources for future generations.||May not consider the long-term impact of its use on the environment and society.|
Why Should We Care About Sustainable Technology?
Promoting sustainable technology can address various environmental challenges, such as air pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions. Using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainable living.
But besides that, here are some key points on why sustainable technology is important:
Climate change mitigation
- The use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower can reduce carbon emissions and the reliance on fossil fuels, and they are major contributors to climate change.
- Sustainable transportation systems, such as electric cars and public transportation, can reduce the transportation sector's carbon footprint, another major contributor to climate change.
- Sustainable agriculture practices, such as regenerative farming, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration in soils to prevent ecological disasters in the future.
Conservation of natural resources
- Sustainable forestry practices can help conserve forests and protect biodiversity, which are essential for carbon sequestration and provide habitats for various species.
- Water-efficient technologies, drip irrigation, reduce water consumption in agriculture and industries and help conserve water resources.
- Sustainable land management practices, such as no-till farming and crop rotation, help to conserve soil fertility and reduce land degradation.
- Innovative technologies, such as 3D printing and closed-loop systems, can help reduce waste and create new products from recycled materials to conserve resources and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.
- Sustainable materials, for example, biodegradable and compostable materials, reduce the environmental impact of packaging waste.
- Recycling and composting refer to sustainable waste management, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and promoting a circular economy.
- It can provide access to clean energy, clean water, and sanitation in underserved communities, improving the quality of life for individuals in these communities.
- Create new job opportunities and promote economic development in marginalized communities and make a change for reducing poverty and promote social equity.
- It improves agricultural productivity, reduces food waste, and provides access to clean water and healthcare, supporting sustainable development goals such as poverty reduction, food security, and access to healthcare.
- It promotes sustainable urban development, such as green buildings and sustainable transportation systems, to reduce the environmental impact of urbanization and promote sustainable and livable cities.
- It supports sustainable tourism practices, such as eco-tourism and responsible tourism for sustainable development in tourist destinations.
- Sustainable building practices and infrastructure can reduce the impact of natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and droughts, to build resilience against climate change.
- Sustainable energy systems, such as microgrids and renewable energy systems, can provide emergency response services in affected areas during natural disasters, improving disaster response and recovery efforts.
- Sustainable transportation systems provide reliable transportation during natural disasters to help evacuate affected communities and provide emergency services. They are electric buses and emergency vehicles.
- It can address environmental injustices and promote environmental equity by reducing environmental pollution and providing access to clean air, water, and land.
- Influence on the disproportionate impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on marginalized communities, such as low-income communities and communities of color.
- Promote a circular economy by designing products for reuse, recycling, and repair, which can reduce waste and conserve resources.
- Creation of new business models and value chains, which can promote sustainable consumption and production practices. For example, zero-waste models aim to eliminate waste from the production process entirely. Businesses redesign products to be reusable, eliminating single-use packaging and implementing closed-loop supply chains. Or a model that allows people to share underutilized assets like cars, homes, and tools, reducing the need for new production and consumption. The best example of it is Airbnb.
Corporate social responsibility
- It can support corporate social responsibility initiatives by reducing the environmental impact of business operations and promoting sustainable business practices.
- Can enhance corporate reputation and stakeholder engagement by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.
- Sustainable technology promotes global cooperation and collaboration by sharing knowledge and best practices and supporting international cooperation on environmental and social issues.
- It supports the achievement of global sustainable development goals, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by addressing environmental and social challenges at the local and global levels.
As you can see from above, there are plenty of ways to implement sustainable technology and provide enormous benefits for future generations. This is why it is important that companies adopt a framework that includes solutions and services that can help increase an organization's energy efficiency and effectiveness by implementing technologies we need to elaborate further.
Plotting a Course to Sustainability
In its 2023 trends report, Gartner experts suggest that sustainable technology will encompass a range of established and cutting-edge technologies. Gartner emphasizes that sustainable technology should be viewed as a framework of digital solutions that can facilitate positive environmental, social, and governance (ESG) outcomes for both the enterprise and its customers.
There are 4 areas that create opportunities to gain ESG goals:
- Artificial Intelligence and Natural Process Learning
- Advanced analytics
- Cloud computing
Let’s delve into each of these areas and explore how they can help companies achieve their sustainability objectives.
Automation refers to using technology to automate processes and reduce resource-intensive activities. In the context of sustainable technology, automation can help companies achieve their environmental goals by reducing energy consumption and waste. For example, companies can use automation to optimize their supply chain processes, reducing transportation emissions, and energy usage. Additionally, automation can help companies achieve social goals by reducing employees' workload and freeing up time for more meaningful tasks.
At Mad Devs, we recognize the immense value that automation can bring to the table. That's why we have implemented it at different levels in our work processes to help us manage the company more efficiently. For us, automation is more than just a tool; it's a mission that we believe in. That's why we automate everything on our end and help our customers automate their processes as well. By leveraging automation, we can reduce the amount of time spent on manual tasks, improve accuracy, and increase productivity. Ultimately, automation enables us to focus on higher-level tasks requiring human input and decision-making, allowing us to deliver better client outcomes.
One of the existing sustainable technologies that use automation is automated waste sorting. These systems utilize machine learning and sensors to pick up and recycle waste materials, which helps reduce the need for manual handling and increases recycling rates. A famous example is Zen Robotics.
Artificial intelligence and natural process learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science that involves the creation of intelligent machines that can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence, such as decision-making, problem-solving, and language understanding. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has revolutionized the way we interact with computers. In simple terms, NLP is analyzing and understanding human language, allowing computers to interpret and respond to natural language input.
AI and NLP can be used to predict climate change's impact on businesses and optimize operations to minimize environmental impact. For example, AI-powered energy management systems can help companies reduce their energy consumption by optimizing lighting, heating, and cooling systems. Furthermore, AI and NLP can be used to optimize supply chain processes, reducing transportation emissions and minimizing waste.
AI and NLP are used in smart grid technology, which is a sustainable power system that uses machine learning to improve the efficiency of electricity distribution. It can also help integrate renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Some of the prominent companies that use this technology include Siemens Spectrum Power.
Advanced analytics can be used to capture real-time performance analysis, enabling companies to identify areas for improvement and optimize their processes. These techniques include machine learning, predictive modeling, data mining, and text analytics, among others. The goal of advanced analytics is to go beyond basic data analysis and uncover deeper insights that can be used to inform decision-making and drive business outcomes.
For example, companies can use advanced analytics to monitor their energy consumption and identify areas where energy usage can be reduced. Additionally, advanced analytics can be used to monitor supply chain processes and identify areas where waste can be reduced.
IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite uses advanced analytics technology that optimizes transportation routes, reduces inventory waste, and improves sustainability across the supply chain. This process can also help them avoid costly errors and transport-related emissions.
Cloud computing offers several advantages over traditional on-premise solutions, including increased flexibility, scalability, and reduced energy consumption.
In case of sustainability, by leveraging cloud computing, companies can reduce their carbon footprint by optimizing their use of shared resources and reducing their energy consumption.
At Mad Devs' we had cloud cost optimization experience for the case of the world of Fintech, check this article to find nine important best practices for optimizing your cloud costs.
A virtual power plant is a technology that uses cloud computing to improve the efficiency of its electricity generation. It can operate and manage various energy sources, such as batteries and solar panels, through a single platform. This eliminates the need for traditional power plants and allows for more flexible energy management. The company that uses this technology is Suneverge Power Platform.
These technologies are what are shaping the future trends for sustainability. However, it is essential to be aware of the hidden costs that can arise from adopting new technology. Let’s explore the hidden costs associated with new technology and ways to account for them when evaluating new technology.
These hidden costs are not factored into the initial budget or evaluation and can lead to significant financial losses. These costs can be related to hardware, software, staffing, training, maintenance, and upgrades.
- Training. One of the most common hidden costs associated with new technology is training. It often requires employees to learn new skills and workflows, which can be a significant expense. This may involve hiring trainers, removing staff from their regular duties, or paying employees to attend training courses and obtain certifications.
- Data Migration. Adopting new technology often requires transferring data from existing systems to new ones. Data migration can be time-consuming and costly, especially if the data is extensive or requires significant restructuring.
- System Integration. New technology may require integrating existing systems or software. This complicated process requires specialized expertise and can lead to unexpected expenses if not adequately planned for.
- Downtime and Productivity Loss. Adopting new technology may require system installation, configuration, and testing downtime. This downtime can lead to decreased productivity, revenue, and customer satisfaction.
- Security and Compliance. New technology may require additional security measures and compliance requirements, which can be expensive to implement and maintain.
- Licensing and Subscription Fees. Some new technology requires licensing or subscription fees, a significant ongoing expense that may not be apparent during the initial evaluation stages.
- Vendor Lock-in. Adopting new technology may create a dependency on a specific vendor or technology. This can lead to future expenses, such as higher prices or difficulty transitioning to new technology.
To avoid unexpected expenses associated with new technology, it is essential to account for hidden costs during the evaluation process. Here are some ways to account for hidden costs:
- Conduct a thorough evaluation
Before adopting new technology, conduct a thorough evaluation considering all aspects of the technology, including hidden costs. This evaluation should include an analysis of hardware, software, infrastructure, and staffing requirements.
- Estimate the total cost of ownership
When evaluating new technology, estimate the total cost of ownership over the entire lifespan of the technology. This includes both direct and indirect costs, such as maintenance, upgrades, and training.
- Plan for contingencies
It is essential to plan for contingencies when evaluating new technology. This means setting aside additional funds to cover unexpected expenses that may arise during the implementation and use of the technology.
- Consult with experts
Consult with experts in the field to get an accurate picture of the hidden costs associated with technology. It may include consulting with IT professionals, consultants, and other experts in the field.
- Evaluate economic viability
It is crucial to evaluate the economic viability of sustainable new technology. Consider the costs of adopting the technology and the potential benefits, such as cost savings, increased productivity, and improved public perception.
- Long-term planning
Sustainable technology products are designed to last for a long time, reducing the need for frequent upgrades and replacements. When evaluating sustainable new technology, consider its long-term sustainability and potential to adapt to future technological advancements.
Sustainable technology has become a buzzword in the current era due to the increasing global concern for the environment and social responsibility. We need to elaborate on the importance of this technology since the adoption and implementation of sustainable technology can help address numerous environmental and social issues and promote a more sustainable and equitable world.
There is still one more important aspect worth mentioning.
What to do if you are on the verge of creating software that must meet the eco agenda and sustainability of the future. How to start to develop, and what are best practices? Consider the following aspects for your existing or next projects.
How to Build Sustainable Apps and Software
Building sustainable apps and software is an important way to promote sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of technology. Here are some best practices for sustainable software development:
- Design for Energy Efficiency
When designing software, developers should aim to minimize energy consumption by optimizing code and reducing unnecessary processing. This can be achieved through techniques such as using efficient algorithms, minimizing database queries, and reducing network traffic and using low-level programming languages. Minimize using large files and efficient protocols, and reduce the number of server requests. Write code optimized for speed and using the least amount of resources possible. So it helps reduce your software's energy consumption and improve its performance.
- Use Sustainable Hosting
Developers should choose to host providers that use renewable energy sources to power their data centers. This ensures that the energy used to power the software is generated from sustainable sources. Use cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, which offer energy-efficient data centers and renewable energy options. It can help reduce the carbon footprint of your software.
- Optimize Data Storage
Storing large amounts of data can be energy-intensive, so optimizing data storage is essential to minimize energy consumption. To achieve that, use compression techniques and minimize redundant data.
- Consider the Full Lifecycle of Software
Developers should consider the full lifecycle of software, from development to disposal, and aim to minimize the environmental impact at each stage. This includes using sustainable materials in hardware components, using recycled materials where possible, and ensuring that software is designed to be easily recyclable or repurposed.
- Encourage Sustainable Behaviors
The software can be designed to encourage sustainable behaviors, such as reducing energy consumption or promoting sustainable transportation. Developers can achieve this by incorporating features such as energy usage monitoring, eco-friendly reminders, or incentives for sustainable behavior.
- Build for Longevity
Build your software to last as long as possible to reduce the need for frequent upgrades and replacements. This can help reduce electronic waste and energy consumption.
- Consider Open-Source
Consider using open-source software or contributing to open-source projects to promote collaboration and reduce duplication of effort. This can help reduce the environmental impact of software development.
To Wrap Up
It's clear that sustainable technology is crucial for addressing environmental and social issues, promoting economic growth, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. From renewable energy to sustainable transportation, carbon capture to energy-efficient software, there are countless examples of sustainable technology being implemented across the globe.
However, much work must be done to ensure that sustainable technology becomes the standard rather than the exception. This requires a concerted effort from individuals and organizations alike to embrace sustainable practices and prioritize the environment in all aspects of life.
As individuals, we can do our part by making sustainable choices in our daily lives, such as reducing our energy consumption, using public transportation, and supporting companies that prioritize sustainability. Organizations can also play a critical role by adopting sustainable practices in their operations, investing in sustainable technologies, and advocating for policy changes that support sustainability.
If you are interested in developing a sustainable app or software, contact us. We must all embrace sustainable technology and work together to create a greener future. By doing so, we can ensure a healthy planet for ourselves and future generations to come.
What is the difference between eco-friendly and sustainable technology?
How can we measure the impact of sustainable technology on the environment?
How can businesses benefit from implementing sustainable technology?
Can sustainable technology be affordable for everyone?
What are some emerging trends in sustainable technology?
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