Do You Find the Paradox of Sustainable Technology Puzzling?
You already know how deeply embedded technology is in our daily lives and you wish there was a peaceful solution to this dilemma.
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It’s more crucial than ever that the technology we rely on can be made, used, repaired, and discarded in ways that don’t endanger human health or the environment.
Ecologically sound gadgets, please. A paradox? I say we find out.
The phrase “sustainable technology” refers to products created with environmental sustainability in mind as well as those created to address or prevent environmental problems.
We’ll briefly discuss the first idea, but our main focus will be on the second: what eco-friendly and sustainable technology implies for our daily lives and how that knowledge might lead to better choices.
How Can Technology Play a Part in Creating a More Sustainable World?
Since technological progress both informs and facilitates decarbonization and sustainability initiatives, it is possible that the role of technology in sustainability is the most important, second only to individual choice and agency.
Optimizing processes, disclosing one’s carbon footprint, creating circular and environmentally friendly goods and services, and working together across industries are the four primary ways in which technology contributes to sustainability.
By shifting to a cloud-based architecture, businesses can lessen their reliance on on-premises power sources and the emissions that come with making network and digital systems out of physical gear.
Carbon Footprint Transparency
More people can hold businesses to account and monitor their actions when they provide information about their energy use, emissions, and carbon footprint. When problems are discussed openly and honestly, solutions can come from all corners and from experts in all fields.
Circular Products and Services
It’s possible that some IT firms may start emphasizing eco-friendly production methods, like recycling and upcycling, for their products and materials.
The technology sector can cut emissions and centralize energy consumption through partnerships with other organizations.
What’s the Big Deal About Green Technology?
The environmental and ethical concerns of today’s technology are often overlooked by the general public. The ethical ramifications of technology span the entire manufacturing, use, and disposal cycle.
So, let’s have a look at a typical use case for an everyday piece of technology:
To begin, there are the components used to create the final good, the majority of which will be metal and plastic.
Almost all metals must be mined, which is an issue because most mining operations occur in poor nations without enough safeguards for the environment, human rights, or worker health and safety.
Human rights violations, child labor, and violent conflict are all pervasive in the cobalt mining industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More than 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the DRC, and it is used in the lithium-ion batteries that power cell phones.
Meanwhile, the production of plastic requires large quantities of water and nonrenewable fossil fuels, leading to pollution and waste before the plastic has even reached the hands of consumers.
Additional fossil fuels and water are used in the manufacturing process, not to mention the resources needed to construct the factories and manufacturing equipment.
Long working hours, low compensation, and even child labor are also likely to be at play, depending on where the factories are located.
Industrial waste from the manufacturing process is probably not confined, leading to the degradation of adjacent land, air, and water supplies, as environmental awareness is often poor in countries where human rights are low.
Transportation of raw materials and finished goods between production and retail outlets also need to be accounted for.
The maritime industry’s impact on global pollution has, until recently, been largely overlooked. But that needs to change, as its function is crucial.
Nearly every inch of water has at least one shipping route crossing it. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air pollution, oil and chemical spills, and noise pollution in the ocean are only some of the effects.
The annual greenhouse gas emissions from ships are higher than those from airplanes.
A single piece of technology rarely has a nice worst-case scenario. It’s a bitter pill to swallow to learn that your phone batteries may or may not have contributed to the egregious human rights atrocities in the DRC.
The fact that knowing for sure in either direction is nearly difficult adds insult to injury. Most technological companies have extensive supply networks that are difficult to understand.
Due to the global nature of the supply chain for consumer electronics, it is nearly impossible to tell with any degree of certainty whether or not the product you are purchasing was made in a sustainable manner.
If it doesn’t state clearly and definitely on the product’s packaging that it was produced with consideration for the welfare of the workforce, the community, and the environment, it’s probably not.
Because of this murkiness, greenwashing is not just conceivable but widespread.
Finally, what happens to the energy expended while the device was in use and when it is no longer needed?
Most technological equipment is considered “redundant” because it gets thrown away much before the end of its useful lifespan.
E-waste is a major and expanding problem. Did you know that the typical smartphone owner upgrades every 18 months?
Toxic substances, like those found in heavy metals and flame retardants, contribute to widespread environmental issues caused by the disposal of outdated equipment. There is an especially terrible effect on LCD panels, TVs, and laptops.
Furthermore, most electronic waste generated in developed nations is exported to poorer nations. Here, it is either burned, resulting in air pollution, or dumped, leading to exposure of people, especially children, who forage unprotected for materials they can sell.
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