The Future is Green: Sustainable Transport and Local and Sustainable Materials

We started our peek into our bright green []
future by looking at two very big, very large scale hurdles to clear: zero carbon and zero waste. Today, we’ll focus on more tangible ideas that are easier to put in to everyday context, since they’re things we use every day: sustainable transport [] and local/sustainable [] materials.

We have a huge opportunity to make both our day-to-day and longer-term (like holiday airplane travel) transportation more sustainable. You already know the story with cars: internal combustion engines pollute [], bottom line, so for all the talk about hybrids and plug-in hybrids [] and flex-fuel and biofuel [], we have to get beyond using fossil fuels in our engines, and, ultimately, get beyond internal combustion to use things like batteries [] and hydrogen fuel cells [], where emissions will not only be reduced, but can be absolutely zero. Of course, these options already exist (in prototype form, at least) with Tesla’s sexy roadster [] and the Hypercar [] (here’s part two [] of that series).

Flying is a bit more of a trick, because few viable options exist for replacing fossil fuel-derived jet fuel just yet; with careful travel management (and careful carbon offset purchasing []) we can help first reduce our air miles and second make our flying carbon neutral.

As with much of this list, the benefits (and need for) local, sustainable materials are intertwined with other facets of the top 10. The impetus for sustainable materials comes from the destructive patterns of resource exploitation and use of non-local materials in construction and manufacture that increases environmental harm and reduces gains to the local economy; that means that not only do non-sustainable resources deplete resources, but shipping them from across the globe increases carbon footprints and, in some cases, can exploit labor and human capital. What do we do about it? Well, the green future will include more sustainable labeling schemes [] for materials — like the Forest Stewardship Council for wood — and more sustainable materials in general — like bamboo []. Where possible, we’ll look to use local, reclaimed, renewable and recycled materials in construction and products, which minimizes transport emissions, spurs investment in local nature [] stocks and boosts the local economy. We’ll be revisiting the local theme again, several times, so stay tuned for more on that.

Up next: local and sustainable food and sustainable water.