Terracotta air conditioning and farming in Antarctica: the best green innovations of the week

As Climate Week draws to a close, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that could help to accelerate the global shift towards a prosperous low-carbon future.

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

Climate Week has been the focal point for sustainability professionals, as a plethora of high-profile companies committed to numerous environmental initiatives. In fact, improved boardroom understanding around the business case of climate action has enabled the low-carbon agenda to flourish, according to the organisers of the week, Climate Group’s chief executive.

During the week-long event, multinational firms including Ikea, HP and Unilever were among the first 10 members of a new initiative launched by The Climate Group which aims to make electric vehicles (EVs) "the new normal" by 2030.

Elsewhere, a number of clothing companies including Nike and Levi Strauss have all committed to set emission reduction targets through the Science Based Targets initiative.

Speaking at a meeting of Champions 12.3 in New York earlier this week (20 September), Tesco moved to champion the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by striking a deal with its largest food suppliers for them to halve food waste by 2030.

Even though the corporate agenda is accelerating at pace, a new report has warned that companies need to go further. The report suggests that many businesses are failing to follow through on commitments to the SDGs, with certain goals unlikely to be achieved by 2030.

It seems the private sector still needs some assistance and breakthroughs to drive progress further. With all of that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package for you to enjoy.

Brighten up your lifecycle

James Cropper recently teamed with Selfridges and waste management firm Veolia to make the well-known yellow showing bags from recycled coffee cups. Now the firm is “poised to revolutionise” sustainable packaging by helping brands add a dash of colour to their sustainability efforts.

Colourform is a renewable, recyclable and coloured moulded fibre packaging product made from 100% natural wood fibres for managed forests and recycled content from the company’s recycling plant. The new product is meant to act as an alternative to the plastics plaguing the oceans while helping brands reduce carbon footprints.

The product offers vibrant colours to what was previously mundane packaging and if the customer doesn’t recycle the content and it ends up in landfill, it is naturally biodegradable to leave no lasting environmental impact.

Terracotta balmy

The heaters may be switching on across UK offices, but for other countries air conditioning is still a necessity. New Delhi-based Ant Studio recently unveiled and artistic, zero-electricity air conditioner that will help an Indian company stay cool in sweltering heat conditions.

Built as part of an aesthetics project for DEKI Electronics, Art Studio used terracotta cones and falling water to cool the air surrounding the structure, without using electricity. The system rolls water down the structure and as evaporation occurs the surrounding air is cooled and the terracotta absorbs excess water to stop spillage.

Currently, the prototype can cool air at temperatures of more than 50C to less than 36C around the structure, while atmospheric temperatures drop to 42C.

Grown on the ice shelf

It is impossible to grow food outdoors in Antarctica. The ever-present winters and icy conditions mean that crops instead have to be shipped in dry, via long oversea journeys. However, German engineers have changed that, by using LED lighting and an old shipping container.

Food is usually shipped to researchers at the Neumayer III polar station on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf once or twice a year. But the German Aerospace Centre (GAC) will now build a high-tech vertical farm, allowing the researchers to grow and harvest their own crops.

Crops will be grown all year round in a greenhouse – made from the old shipping container – on a series of shelves and trays. The LEDs will provide the light and heat needed for the crops to grow, meaning that the transportation of these perishable foods is no longer essential.

Nike’s leather pleasure

Building on the success of its Flyknit trainers, Nike has launched its latest produce range to reduce the environmental impacts of its products. Flyleather weaves leather scraps and synthetic material to create a more durable shoe that uses 90% less water.

Flyleather, which has a carbon footprint 80% lower than traditional leather, was designed through collaboration with UK firm E-Leather. The UK company has previously used a similar process to make recycled leather for airplane and train seats.

Up to 30% of a cow’s hide used for leather can end up as scrap pieces too small or damaged to be used as materials for products. For Nike, combining them with the synthetics reduces the waste it is sending to landfill and lowers the impact of its products.

Famished fungi

Judging by the amount of plastic leakage into our oceans, it is fair to say that current treatment and disposal methods are broken. Plastic is durable and if sent to landfill won’t break down in this millennium and new solutions are needed to help treat plastics.

Outside of recycling it seems that the World Agroforestry Centre (WAC) has found a natural solution, plastic-eating fungi. Sehroon Khan of the (WAC) published interesting findings into the Environmental Pollution study, that examined a landfill in Islamabad in Pakistan.

The study focused on the Aspergillus tubingensis fungus, which grows on the surface of plastics. In fact, the fungus can excrete enzymes that break the chemical bonds between polymers to eat away at the plastic in a week. Although factors like temperatures need to be explored, the researchers claim that finding optimal conditions could unlock the use of the fungus in waste treatment plants.

Got milk cartons?

Next week marks National Recycle Week, and Delphis Eco is using the event to champion its new product and encourage better sustainability behaviours among consumers. The company is launching the world’s first packaging made from 100% post-consumer recycled waste.

The company worked with UK waste collectors to produce recycled granules made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. The material will be used for a new cleaning product range and achieved a 100% food grade quality polymerase chain reaction (PRS) level.

To mark the launch, Delphis Eco will launch a campaign on recycling called the Milk Bottle Challenge. The campaign seeks to highlight how businesses, schools and the public can reduce carbon emissions by giving plastic milk cartons a second life.

Matt Mace


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