The Future is Green: Zero Carbon and Zero Waste

With the year winding to a close, many of us take time to reflect on the months gone by and to gaze into our own personal crystal ball to see what the next year might hold. The future is green, from TreeHugger’s point of view, and there are more new ways to insure this is true every day. It’s quite exciting, really, to think about all the ways, all the technologies, all the services and all the ideas that are out there, supporting a green future. To close out 2007, we’ll be looking at 10 things that’ll insure our future is indeed green; the big list is courtesy of One Planet Living [], and first on the list are zero carbon and zero waste.

Zero carbon addresses the hugely important (and, likewise, hugely difficult) problem of global warming. A brief overview: Human generated carbon dioxide has built up to dangerously high levels in the atmosphere; combined with other gases like methane and nitrous oxide, they cause global warming. Carbon dioxide comes from the burning of fossil fuels: coal in our power planets; gasoline in our cars; jet fuel when we fly in airplanes, and more (dig deeper into your carbon footprint here [].

The solution? It sounds easy — implement energy efficiency in buildings and infrastructure; supply energy from on-site renewable sources, topped up by new off-site renewable supply where necessary — but is unfortunately easier said than done. Still, we have everything we need right at our fingertips: Energy Star and LEED for buildings and homes []; electric batteries [] and biofuels [] for our cars; solar, wind and other renewables for our local energy production; and landfill gas (LFG), hydro and other large-scale renewable energies. To go zero carbon, the future is a diverse portfolio of renewable technologies and energy efficiency upgrades, customized to emphasize specific regional strengths, with local options for energy and transportation.

Zero waste also addresses a huge problem that’s getting bigger by the day. Landfills are choked with discarded products and packaging, and our convenience-obsessed, disposable culture is adding more to the pile each day, using up both natural and renewable resources (like trees) and finite resources (like oil). And we’re throwing it away much faster than any of it can biodegrade, especially considering it takes 150 years for a single plastic bag to break down. All of this means we’re drown in a sea of waste, sinking as quickly as we’re using up resources to replace them.

The solution here? Big picture to small, it goes like this: Eliminate waste flows to landfill and for incineration, and reduce waste generation through improved design; encourage re-use, recycling and composting; generate energy from waste cleanly; eliminate the concept of waste as part of a resource-efficient society. It’s Cradle-to-Cradle design []; it’s encouraging more reuse [], better, easier recycling [] and more composting [] and less e-waste []. It’s about thinking where our stuff comes from, and where it’ll go when we’re done with it, and being able to go from having stuff = waste to waste = food.

Next on the list: sustainable transport and local and sustainable materials. Stay tuned!