Sustainability innovations and the people behind them

Creative innovators around the globe are implementing initiatives and technology to improve society and help us lead more sustainable lives. As we develop new ways to produce clean water, grow enough food, and generate energy without destroying our atmosphere, we want to ensure that we share these exciting innovations.

Changing the way we grow food – grow up!

As our world population continues to grow, we have the challenge of producing more food even as a lot of agricultural land is lost to urban development. It is estimated that we will need to double food production by 2050 if everyone is going to have enough to eat. Singapore, a country that is already space constrained, is developing vertical farming practices to meet this need. Vertical farming has the potential to significantly increase food production and is something we can even do at home!

Can biofabrication change the way we produce clothes and construct buildings?

New technologies and approaches are allowing us to “grow” clothing raw materials and produce building materials in ways that place much less burden on our environment. TED Fellow Suzanne Lee believes that biofabrication could replace major sources of waste, like plastic and cement, with eco-friendly, sustainable alternatives. She is working with an expanding community of “biofabricators” to grow these new materials.

Taking CO2 out of the air

Much of the concern around climate change focuses on the fact that we are producing too much carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas is contributing to warming of our planet. Reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has the potential to reduce this damaging effect. Researchers at Arizona State University have developed a CO2 “mechanical tree”, a device that removes CO2 from the air the same way that a tree does, but at much higher rate. If produced at scale, this technology could make a real difference in our ability to reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.


Drones that deliver medical supplies

Zipline is a company with a great mission. To “provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” They are achieving this using unmanned aircraft, known as drones. These drones are stocked with the requested supplies and then launched to fly to the clinic where they are needed. The care package is dropped by parachute at the clinic and the supplies are available for immediate use. This TED talk discusses the idea in more detail.

Cost effective 3D printing buildings

Safe, durable, affordable housing is a challenge in many parts of the world. An innovative solution to that problem is to use a larger than normal 3D printer to print a concrete house in a fraction of the time it normally takes build a home and at very low cost. This technology is being tested and has the potential to change construction methods in many situations.