As humans race further into the 21st century, the marriage of science and technology is only getting stronger. Indeed, it seems like there is a new gadget or toy every week, and some 2013 inventions are just plain head-turning.
But with more and more people vying for electronics, personal gadgets, and tech toys, environmental concerns are called into question: such as pollution, landfills, and even interaction with the air and radio waves.
Luckily, there’s a huge push for environment-saving technology and products with reduced energy consumption. Sometimes, a technology helps the environment in such subtle ways, consumers don’t even realize it.
Here are four inventions, some new and some already popular, that help the environment:
1. The Cloud
With the invention of wireless data storage, people can store documents, photos, and other files in the endless plane of cyberspace for anywhere-anytime access. You can back up with iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive, or even create your own cloud. Work groups and students can collaborate on projects entirely online, travelers can access important documents and reservation itineraries anywhere there is an Internet connection, and writers can store their lengthy manuscripts away from prying eyes. In short, the cloud has helped reduce paper consumption in favor of a digital trail; thus, it has also reduced waste, pollution, and tree-killing.
2. Cardboard Bike
Israeli engineer Izhar Gafni has developed a sustainable bicycle made entirely from recycled material: a single-speed bike complete with with spokes and rims. The frame is made from strongly folded cardboard and sealed with a varnish, the wheels come from old car tires, and plastic bottles are molded into pedals. The current prototype weighs 28 pounds, with the strength to carry 20 times its weight, but Gafni intends to build additional, lighter models. And because of the low production and materials cost, he hopes to sell the bike for a mere $30 – even less in developing countries – making it cost-effective and extremely attainable.
3. Thermal Insulated Curtains
During the extreme temperature seasons of summer and winter, energy costs skyrocket thanks to humans trying to keep themselves (and their homes) are comfortable temperatures. When the sun bakes the side of a house, the heat blares through mercilessly; when temperatures reach subzero outside, the frigid air snakes inside despite a standard home’s best attempts at insulation. But while cranking the air-conditioner or heater will combat the unpleasant effects inside, it also eats up electricity – especially since a considerable amount of the air or heat is lost through windows and door edges. Cue thermal insulated curtains, which block up to 99.99% of light and 100% of UV rays. And they’re reversible, so you can tailor them to either keep heat out or keep it in, reducing the thermostat level – and your electricity bill.
4. Wind-Powered Car
The model isn’t in production yet, but the car that made headlines for traveling at three times the speed of wind was recently auctioned on eBay. Known as the Blackbird, the structure utilizes wind through its wheels, and a massive propeller to create thrust, in order to propel the vehicle forward. It succeeded in traveling downwind at three times the speed of wind, and a secondary test succeeded in it traveling upwind (by replacing the propeller with a turbine) at 2.1 times the speed.