Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we socialise, shop, eat and sleep. So too is it now impacting the way we interact with the natural environment, so much so that we are in the midst of an eco digi-revolution – one that is seeing a wide range of clean and green technology flood the market, replacing outdated and polluting technologies and products.
From robotic bees to digital paper, ‘eco-products’ are no longer the old-fashioned, hippy-oriented products that so many once affiliated with an alternative lifestyle. From hemp bags to recycled clothes, going ‘eco’ once meant shopping in one of two stores in Australia – Tree of Life, or St Vincent De Paul. Today, it means using the most efficient type of LED light bulb, having solar panels on the roof of your house, or driving a super sleek Tesla. There are apps and platforms dedicated to reducing one’s environmental footprint, and from the way we dress to the way we brush our teeth there seems to be a product or technology to make those activities less impactful on the planet.
The literal meaning of eco-friendly is “friend of ecology”, in other words, respectful of the environment in daily activities, seeking ecological balance for the world. Eating less meat, walking more than driving, and reusing plastic and other single-use products are perfect examples of how to be more eco-friendly. But there is no denying that changing the way we eat and travel is difficult and challenging for the majority of us. Becoming a vegetarian is seriously tough (I speak from experience), and choosing to scrap your annual overseas holiday in favour of a less carbon intensive type of journey is something that many of us struggle with. Myself, as an avid environmentalist, included.
But a dizzying array of seriously cool new technology is changing all that, making eco-friendly ‘cool’ and accessible to the average person. From eco-friendly lego brix, non-electric exercise equipment and wall paint that absorbs and retains heat, to pineapple-fibre “leather”, biodegradable plastic and thermostats that connect to your mobile, enabling you to regulate your home air temperature to more sustainable levels, there is a plethora of new technologies and eco promotional products designed to make ‘going green’ easier and cooler than ever.
Ten, twenty years ago, you might have earned a reputation as a crazed environmentalist or hippy for suggesting that people stop eating meat or respect the planet more. Today, being an ‘environmentalist’ is the done thing. Being inconsiderate of the environment, on the other hand, earns you a few negative points in the eyes of others.
Just consider the evolution of Earth Day.
On April 22, 1970, for the first ever ‘earth day’, millions of people took to the streets of America for protests and marches, calling attention to the environmental problems the country was seeing. A folk music concert featuring Pete Seeger and U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie was the main attraction of the event, so you can imagine why it earned the reputation it did.
Today, Earth Day is a global event with over 1 billion participants from 192 countries. It is no longer a political event for lefties but a political uprising led by everyday citizens concerned about the future of their planet. Leveraging media and social digital platforms, Earth Day supporters are standing up for what they believe in, no longer afraid of exclusion from society or of being labelled something they are not.
Perhaps the market-wide availability of cool, high-tech, newfangled eco-friendly products is partly responsible for this. In almost every tech and homeware store today in the world’s more developed countries, one could very easily find an environmentally friendly product, be it reusable bamboo tupperware and cutlery or slick reusable coffee cups. Even major brands like Apple and Adidas are on board with eco-friendly: Adidas has produced 7,000 limited edition sneakers made completely out of plastic recovered from the ocean, while Apple has recently released the iPhone 11 – available in various materials including 100% recycled aluminum. Better yet, Apple uses various recycled components within the internal elements of the new and very trendy phone too. Perhaps trendy is the key word here, it is now actually trendy being environmentally conscious.
It’s a wonderful thing, but boy has it taken us some time to get here. And what it means is that the market for eco products and eco technologies is looking more promising than ever: it could hit $150 billion in the U.S. alone by 2021. According to data, consumers in the United States spent more than $128.5 billion by October 2018 on sustainable fast-moving consumer goods, and spending is only growing greater.
If we keep up this momentum and continue offering more and more efficient, eco-friendly products to consumers, we might just begin making headway in addressing the global environmental crisis we have found ourselves in.