The Green Industry Today: Top Companies and Countries Leading the Way to a Greener Future
Years before green technology began to take the center stage, going green offered a no-win situation for businesses. Back then, eco-consciousness was such an expensive commodity. But thanks to the emergence of environmental conservation, protecting the earth is now the core of big and small industries. Search everywhere–remote areas, included–and you’d see consumers choosing green, eco-friendly products.
This global shift has affected all life cycles of product development, and for a better cause. From recyclable plastic bags to huge power-generating turbines, the green industry is making radical changes, worldwide. And with it comes a trend embraced by many–green technology.
Practically our way of silencing Mother Earth’s wrath, green technology minimizes environmental impacts while allowing us to live in the digital age. But what is green technology and how is it affecting global communities?
Green Technology (Clearly) Defined
Green technology, clean tech, environmental technology–they all go by different names but they basically mean the same. In a nutshell, green technology is a type of technology that has three main end-goals: 1) protect our environment, 2) conserve natural resources, and 3) repair or reverse environmental damage.
From a business perspective, green technology uses clean technology to boost operational performance while cutting on costs, wastes, and natural resource use. While these goals were once a shot on the moon due to the high cost of going green, the green industry is now soaring towards efficiency while incorporating green practices.
Guiding Principles on Going Green
The need for environmental technology is hitting industries at every angle. From segregating wastes to reducing carbon footprints, the challenge is to live as sustainably as possible. But how so? Going green doesn’t come with a manual. With so many labels and terms, creating a sustainable lifestyle–and business–has its gray areas.
But one thing is for sure: looking after the environment is a collective effort that requires a sincere, continuous approach. On a personal level, going green is as simple as riding a bike to work, eating sustainably, or even carrying eco-friendly bags when you’re out for a grocery run. In practice, green living revolves around these goals: 1) reduce pollution, 2) conserve energy and resources, and 3) minimize waste consumption.
Fun Fact: Did you know that when you shop locally, you also play a part in minimizing carbon footprints? Exported and imported goods require transportation, which, in turn, produces harmful emissions. When you buy locally, you discourage the transportation of these products and you get to buy cheaply as a bonus.
Business-wise, companies that aim to protect the environment run extensive research that can help them reduce cost and wastage. While practices may vary from one company to another, operational sustainability is commonly rooted in these principles:
- The rate of use of renewable resources should not be faster than their rate of regeneration.
- The rate of depletion of non-renewable resources should not be faster than the rate of production or regeneration of their renewable counterparts.
- The ability of our natural resources (and the environment as a whole) to regenerate shouldn’t be exceeded by human consumption/use.
Realistically speaking, even if many companies pledge eco-consciousness, the use of renewable and non-renewable resources is, in most cases, a necessity. The silver lining: as more people adopt a sustainable lifestyle, more businesses are becoming extra cautious of their resource use. And this goes out to both major and minor industries.
In fact, green funds, also called ESG or SRI funds, are open to investors who want to show support to companies with eco-friendly initiatives. These funds involve leading publicly-traded green tech companies. But just like other investments, it’s also critical to check the authenticity of a company’s claims on their environmental practices.
As support from different sectors draws in, even small startups are able to take the stride towards eco-friendliness. Investors get to earn from their funds while we progress to a greener nation–that’s what you call a win-win.
Environmental Technology Companies
Metro cities are teeming with vehicles that release harmful emissions, and this should not be taken lightly. Since 1990, pollution is getting a significant incline, making it critical to resort to alternative means of transportation. This signaled the start of a new race: the race to developing the best electric car. And major manufacturers like Tesla, Ford, Rivian, Nissan, Toyota, and Byton are not backing down. Today, electric cars built with modernized features are creating their very own platform.
And it doesn’t stop there. From electric cars, many have now transitioned into electric motorcycle and scooter use. Soon enough, you’d see products of environmental technology soaring up in the sky, thanks to initiatives of companies like Solar Impulse and Ampaire that are developing electric airplanes. This is good news as far as the environment is concerned considering that the aviation industry is a major contributor to greenhouse emissions.
Even better, while electric airplanes are currently being developed, other companies such as Fulcrum BioEnergy, Virent, and Emeral BioFuels are trying to understand the science behind sustainable aviation fuel. These biofuels aim to minimize emissions from air transportation.
Food and Agriculture
Energy and transportation are closely-linked with green technology. But while these industries are taking the spotlight, a new era of food production is now on the rise. Studies project a need to increase food production by 70% come 2050. This definitely poses problems since farmable land is expected to increase by only 5%. Add to that are agricultural problems such as logistics, water overuse, and our already limited farmable land.
Stealing the centerstage by promoting “sustainable farming” are companies like Freight Farms, Verticrop, and Agrilution. Their initiatives mainly answer to problems with food production as we approach 2050. These companies, along with New Harvest, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat, are also looking for alternative ways to feed our population by promoting plant-based meat.
Whoever said there’s no science in food production? By incorporating better farming and food development processes, these companies help us migrate towards a more sustainable future by starting at our very own table.
The use of non-renewable energy sources is a huge environmental headache. But with wind turbines, solar energy, carbon capture, and microgrid solutions providing great alternatives, the solution to energy use is just on the horizon.
Top-tier companies like SolarKiosk, NextGrid, and First Solar create pathways that allow you to live off the grid by generating energy from an almost infinite source–the sun. Along with these companies are other startups that draw power from other renewable sources.
The best part: many countries are taking the leap towards renewable resource use. By combining technology and natural resources, these countries are able to supply a significant percentage of their electricity needs.
The Growth of the Green Technology
Making transportation, agriculture, and energy use eco-friendlier isn’t the end of our journey to sustainability. Today, the green industry is now deeply embedded in the tourism, construction, and fashion sectors with hopes to create a green future. And hopefully, eco-consciousness can reach all parts of the globe by the joint effort of the government and its people.
Top Eco-Friendly Countries in the World
Biyearly, renowned universities like Columbia and Yale keep a tally of the world’s most eco-friendly countries. The ranking is methodical. The EPI uses 32 sustainability indicators that create an overall impact on a specific country’s ecosystem vitality and environmental health. These indicators include factors like waste management, air quality, and water quality.
In recent studies, Europe tops the chart in terms of eco-friendliness, leaving the US at the 24th rank. Combining lush green landscapes with a close attention to sustainability, Denmark, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom were named as the top 5 eco-friendliest countries.
Top Countries in Renewable Energy Use
Many countries now recognize the need for renewable energy use. But some are getting ahead by looking for more innovative ways to embrace a low-carbon future. With a consistent approach to sustainability, below are some of the countries that lead the way to renewable energy use:
Costa Rica already took the leap towards a bright, low-carbon future with its strong commitment to look after the environment. Small but bold, the country pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2021 back in the year 2015. Today, this beautiful country managed to draw 95% of its electricity from renewable sources. Instead of using fossil fuels, Costa Rica uses solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro energy to supply its need for electricity. With great achievements at an early phase, the country is bound to make history through its conservation efforts.
Uruguay is testimony to the power of commitment. Just less than a decade of shifting into renewable energy, the country has achieved a new milestone–source out nearly 100% of its power from renewable energy. With the help of private and public sectors, Uruguay was able to extensively invest in solar and wind energy.
Go big or go home. That’s what we can learn from Morocco when it embarked on an ambitious project: to develop the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant, the Noor Power Station. With plenty of sunlight, the project leads the country 100 steps closer to sustainable energy use. This mega-project, along with hydro and wind power use, is expected to generate electricity for half of Morocco’s population in 2020.
Just like Morocco, Scotland is using its natural environment (and climate) to its advantage. Investing mainly on wind farms, the country was able to supply around 98% of its electricity needs for a month. The future looks brighter on this windy side of the world with its goal to be fossil-fuel-free through its gigantic turbines.
A hub for environmental technology, Sweden is fighting its way to completely eliminating fossil fuel use by 2040. 100% renewable power source? Now, that’s a goal! While this remains a dream for many countries, Sweden is already inching its way to purely resorting to clean technology. The country combines solar and wind energy with smart grids, clean transport, and energy storage. Talk about going green and there you have it.
Tagged as “the world’s first major renewable energy economy,” Germany has always been upfront with its environmental goals. The country draws power from biomass, solar, and wind energy, and it continues to progress towards clean energy use. In fact, in 2018, it was able to supply energy to every household through renewables. Moving forward, the country aims to use renewable sources to power 65% of its households by 2030–another challenging yet achievable feat for a country as innovative as Germany.
As the top eco-friendliest country in the world, Denmark surely knows how to take care of its environment and its resources. Unsurprisingly, the country broke records when it supplied 43% of its electricity from wind energy back in 2017. That’s the highest recorded use of wind energy, making it a huge achievement. In the same year, Denmark also generated more than half of its electricity needs from solar and wind energy combined. Like Sweden, Denmark is also looking forward to a fossil-fuel-free future in the year 2050.
Let’s face it: China isn’t the first country you’d think of when you hear the word “eco-friendly.” But while it is one of the largest carbon emitters, the country is making huge progress in developing sustainable energy. Larger than any other country, that is. In 2017, China had a 45% share of renewables investments, globally. It also had the highest solar PV and wind capacity installed in the same year. To top it off, China is geared towards cleaning its air and using renewables as 35% of its electricity source by 2030.
The days when the environment and technology don’t mix are now in the distant past. As the need to embrace sustainability becomes clearer, now is the best time to create a proactive approach to green living. Pick up a tiny can on the street. Use recyclable bottles. Every little effort counts. It does for you. And it definitely does for your environment.