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These Industries Are Leading the Way in Green Innovation in 2021

Hand-in-hand with still generating a profit, these green innovations show that adaptation and fast action are key to helping the environment.

Photo by Fahrul Azmi via Unsplash

2020 was a difficult year for everyone. The pandemic created lockdowns and emphasized the need for social distancing. One positive outcome was reduced pollution as people stayed home across the world. However temporary, this reduction shows that fast change is possible.

In 2021, several industries are taking it upon themselves to act in a similarly quick way with green innovations that can help the environment.

1. Transportation

As one of the most necessary industries in the world, transportation holds a lot of responsibility to be reliable. However, it’s also a primary area for air pollution. In 2018, transportation contributed to 28 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States—the most of any industry.

To combat that pollution, the industry is now turning away from gas-powered vehicles and focusing on alternatives. While electric vehicles (EVs) have been in development, the bigger focus for 2021 will be hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These vehicles produce no emissions and don’t require batteries as EVs do.

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The transportation sector is going beyond even hydrogen cars, too. A new design from Airbus shows that hydrogen-powered airplanes could be in the air by 2030.

2. Agriculture

Agriculture workers and farmers usually have to maintain large plots of land, monitoring crops and animals. With such large spaces to take care of, it becomes easy to overlook the smaller tasks, like fertilizing. However, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can help track plant growth across the farm. 

These sensors track the condition of the crops, which helps workers know how much sunlight, fertilizer or water the plants might need. The sensors also work with weather forecasts, so farmers know exactly how to prepare their crops for a storm. This precision helps agriculture workers reduce the resources they use, so nothing goes to waste.

In a more urban area, vertical farming is a growing trend in 2021. When growing crops vertically indoors, workers can use less water, as it all drips down from plant to plant. They can also reduce the need for pesticides completely.

A vertical farm then provides foods, like fruits, vegetables and grains, more immediately to the surrounding area.

3. Waste Management

The waste management industry must improve the management of certain harmful waste, like plastics or byproducts. These two examples, specifically, have the potential to improve the industry in a green way, with the proper techniques.

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Plastic recycling is the process of chemically altering a plastic to make it reusable as another object. While chemical recycling isn’t a cure-all solution, it’s a greener way to handle the massive amounts of plastic in the world.

For any waste that could contain germs or that’s a potential risk for human handling, anaerobic digestion is an innovative way to handle it. This method uses microorganisms to digest waste, which can create biogas in the process that then provides heat or electricity.

4. Energy

The energy industry has a significant responsibility on its shoulders. As the sector that deals with fossil fuels and renewables, it must put forth the greenest solutions.

With solar and wind energy production on the rise and their costs dropping, this adoption can continue. However, the energy industry can also help provide water to those in need.

Approximately 785 million people across the world lack access to basic drinking water services. To combat this global water crisis, some experts are using solar panels to desalinate water. Desalination is a tedious and time-consuming process that would typically require massive amounts of energy.

With solar energy as its power source, though, desalination facilities can operate round-the-clock with no emissions, providing clean water to those in need.

5. Food Production

The food industry has seen an interesting movement in the past few years with the inclusion of meat, protein and dairy alternatives. Lab-grown or plant-based meat substitutes are on track to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4 percent through 2026. The livestock sector contributes 14.5 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, so switching to plants is the green movement the food industry needs.

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6. Retail

Retail still has a long way to go in its green journey, but it’s currently making one critical step forward.

The move towards sustainable packaging is an invaluable one. Packaging from non-biodegradable materials harms the environment once disposed of. More environmentally friendly packaging, though, will have a much better impact.

For instance, since some places, like New York City, have banned harmful packaging materials, biodegradable options have become the solution. Instead of styrofoam packing peanuts, biodegradable ones are the greener alternative.

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Retailers can also cut out plastics and opt for cardboard and paper, too, as they strive for a greener industry.

A Green Wave Is Coming

These industry movements and changes on their own are powerful. Together, though, they create a growing trend where sustainability and the environment are their main focuses.

Hand-in-hand with still generating a profit, these green innovations show that adaptation and fast action are key to helping the environment. 2021 is where these changes will get their footing, and the possibilities will only grow from here.

Devin Partida is an innovations and business writer whose work has been featured on Startups Magazine, Due and The Boss Magazine. To read more from Devin, see her professional portfolio here

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