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New technologies are making it easier than ever to be sustainable

man sitting in a sustainable office

Sustainability is the new norm, as leaps in technology have enabled businesses across the world to be kinder to the planet with relatively small changes in behaviour. Everyone wants to be sustainable. We’d like to think so, anyway. The threats to our planet have never been more widely talked about, and the pressure on businesses to reduce their impact has never been greater. Plastic straws will soon be a distant memory, followed closely by paper cups as the cult of alternatives like the KeepCup swell ever wider.

In the past, it took a real concerted effort to make a difference. Making moves towards being a cleaner company was the preserve of only the most dedicated and morally passionate COOs. Not anymore. New leaps in technology have enabled today’s businesses to go green without too much discernible changes in cost, administration or effort. Sustainability is becoming the norm, here are a few ways in which environmental virtuousness is more easily acquired than ever.

Talking garbage

When the rubbish van rolls around the corner of a Tuesday morning, it may not seem like the most likely place for a surge in state-of-the-art technological inventiveness. But a handful of startups across the world are using innovative new systems to optimise the process, and seamlessly introduce efficient recycling.

One such example is provided by Joe Allen, COO of London-based recycling collection company First Mile. He says that sustainability for the end user should be seamless: “People want to recycle but you have to take the conscious decision-making out of it. It has to be as easy and as obvious as possible.”

First Mile’s app, as well as connecting jobs to drivers, also allows the company to provide super-specific detailed reports on users’ waste – how much gets recycled, how much goes to incineration, CO2 saving, kilowatts of energy generated, and much more. Companies with targets to hit are more informed than ever.

First Mile uses an Uber-like routing process to match jobs instantly to vans in the area. “We’ve got a system we invest heavily in that efficiently routes 25,000 collections a day of different materials at different times.”

The company is also developing smart devices that can collect data on what’s in a bin to help businesses better optimise their services with Internet-of-Things technology.

To the end user, it’s sort of like nothing’s changed,” adds Allen. “A truck still turns up and collects their waste but, in terms of the effort to enable them to recycle, there’s been an enormous step change that’s been massively leveraged by technology.”

sustainable communities

Similar to First Mile, Utah-based Recyclops uses smart routing to match drivers with recycling points. But, on top of that, it manages to get recycling where it’s literally never been before – the rural communities surrounding its home city of Salt Lake City.

Its app, developed in-house, helps to connect drivers to jobs and to allow them to immediately flag contaminations, sending automatic reports to the individual.

These rural communities are too far away from a recycling centres, and too low a population density to justify buying a $300,000 garbage truck,” says Recyclops CEO Ryan Smith. “So, in that situation, we can come in, use smaller vehicles and connect with the local workforce. Instead of buying the truck and paying a commercial driver $20 an hour, we’re paying a local contractor in a pickup truck $25 an hour. The collection happens much more economically, and with a much lower environmental impact, than it ever would have before.

Chain of command

There was a lot of noise around blockchain when it first surfaced as a technology. Using a series of encryptions to populate a fully transparent digital ledger, it was mostly initially employed in cryptocurrencies, and not much else.

But now, after the hubbub around bitcoin et al has died down, it has been put to use in an altogether more planet-friendly way.

The food sector, for one, is employing blockchain technology to dramatically reduce food waste. Large retailers have already employed blockchain-based technologies to make its food chain immediately transparent. It can provide all the information a customer could want on an item of food in a matter of seconds.

It also means that a contaminated product can be traced immediately, and the process halted. That way, the wasted energy in bringing contaminated food to stores is saved and, more importantly, safe foods would be kept on shelves and not sent to landfill just in case. It can also reduce the middle-man and ensure farmers get a higher chunk of the end profit.

As these technologies become cheaper, more developed and more widely available, sustainability will become the norm for every corporation out there, from coffee shop to conglomerate.

Want to start preparing your business to be more sustainable? There are lots of small changes we can all implement to do our part. Check here for more information.

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