Icebergs bigger than New York City breaking off in Antarctica, raging forest fires in various parts of the world, and disappearing rainforests are just some of the problems we’re facing today due to climate change.
If we don’t make any changes, our natural resources will keep depleting as trash continues to pile up and fill our land and oceans. Green Technology is one of our tools to combat this global crisis, so what are Green Electronics, and how can they help?
Green Electronics utilize materials in their manufacturing that are Environmentally and Eco-Friendly, Biodegradable, Recyclable, and Sustainable that do not add to or exacerbate the global problem of E-Waste. They are headphones, cell phones, PCs, monitors, televisions, and numerous other electronic products.
What matters is; will Green Electronics help our children and grandchildren and their future world? The rest of this article will discuss the importance of green technology, the different types, and its advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Green Technology?
Green technology uses different science and technology fields to conserve nature and its resources, counteract the effects of pollution and global warming, and develop new or alternative techniques, strategies, and technologies to rehabilitate an already damaged ecosystem.
The process involved in green technology takes into consideration the short-term and long-term ramifications on the environment. It’s called by many other terms, including Clean Technology and Environmental Technology.
Whatever you want to call it, its main purpose is to be environmentally friendly to create “Green” technology products, processes, or services that are not further harming our natural resources but foster sustainability.
What Are Green Electronics?
Green Electronics are the same as Sustainable Electronics. As described in the Wikipedia definition, “Sustainable electronics are electronic products made with non-toxic chemicals, recyclable parts, and reduced carbon emissions during production.”
Green Electronics is the metamorphosis of our current electronics into a sustainable resource that has been ingrained into our worldwide society. Almost all people worldwide of every race, gender, and socio-economic background utilize electronic devices in their daily lives.
People also discard and throw away broken or obsolete electronic devices (WEEE) waste electrical and electronic equipment. This disposal of products happens based on planned obsolescence in the electronics industry to fuel new sales on a massive scale. Greenpeace estimates, “Electronic waste now makes up 5 percent of all municipal solid waste worldwide”.
Green Electronic Materials and Components
- Biocompatible electronics
- Biodegradable conductors
- Biodegradable dielectrics
- Biodegradable electronics
- Biodegradable polyester elastomers
- Biodegradable semiconductors
- Borosilicate glass
- Carbon nanotubes and nanofibers
- Cellulose-fiber based substrates
- CNF – Cellulose nanofibers
- Electronic grade silicon
- OFETs – Organic field-effect transistors
- OLEDs – Organic light-emitting diodes
- OPVs – Organic photovoltaic
- Organic electronics
- Polymer electrodes
- Synthetic organic semiconductors
- Synthetic biodegradable polymers
What is E-Waste or WEEE?
WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. E-Waste, Electronic waste”, and End-of-life electronics are all terms used to describe used electronics that are at the end of their usefulness and are thrown into the trash, landfills, dumps, donated, or taken to a recycler. E-Waste or WEEE are terms used in the European Union, the United States, and the West.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends Americans recycle their electronics instead of throwing them in their local garbage. The EPA is working to reduce the amount of e-waste that ends up in American landfills. As described by the EPA, “Electronic waste only accounts for 2% of the waste found in U.S. landfills; although it represents 70% of the overall toxic waste.”
Some exported used electronics are handled responsibly in countries with effective regulatory controls. Much of the world’s Electronic waste is being shipped to other countries like China, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam. China has recently stopped accepting U.S. E-waste, and many of these countries do not have safety or environmental regulations to protect their people or the environment.
Non-Renewable Precious and Rare Earth Metals Used in Electronics
Modern electronics technology includes energy consumed during fabrication against energy consumed during use. A large contributing factor involved in the manufacturing of electronic components is not their power usage that creates an environmentally degraded energy imbalance; the energy expended in their production and creation is the problem.
Mined aluminum and iron ore, for example, used in electronics, are non-renewable resources although recyclable. The mining, transportation, fabrication, and manufacturing of these metal ores, once delivered, is the actual greatest exploitation of energy used.
This fact also does not consider using precious and Rare Earth Metals in today’s electronics that will be gone in less than 20 years from the planet. Rare Earth Metals and Rare Earth Elements are used in such industries as Renewable Energy, Smartphones, and Electric Cars.
Partial List of Elements Facing Short Supply and The List is Increasing Yearly
What Is Sustainability?
The term sustainable is synonymous with the environment, and you hear and read about it regarding the long-term effects on the climate of the world in general. So, let’s first establish what it means.
Sustainability encompasses a few different things, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that this concept is built on the simple principle that whatever we need to keep living and surviving in this world hinges on our natural environment. But we can’t cultivate sustainability if we can’t learn to coexist with nature and make a conscious effort to preserve, develop, and improve its state.
According to Our Common Future by the UN World Commission for Environment and Development, “sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In other words, sustainability is not to deplete our natural resources to keep an ecological balance. To put it more simply, if you cut down one tree, you should replace it with another. With all this in mind, is green technology realistically sustainable?
How Sustainable Is Green Technology?
As much as green technology has gotten popular and more people have become environmentally conscious, there are still many obstacles that hinder the promise of sustainability.
- There are still detractors and skeptics of climate change. Even when faced with facts, such as 2020 having the second warmest average temperature in 141 years, many people are still resistant to supporting the green movement.
- Politics is so entwined with climate change that there still has no decisive large-scale plan of action against this crisis from our global leaders. Or if there are any, the progress is slow.
- You don’t have to be a climate denier to be part of the problem. You only have to be indifferent to the issue.
These are just some of the reasons why green technology seems like an ideological concept. Without the world’s governments and the entire world’s community’s support, there’s a limitation to what green tech can accomplish towards sustainability.
Fortunately, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 has committed the U.S. to fight for sustainability. It’s a national policy that has ignited consumers and business owners to take an interest in sustainable technology. A 2018 United Nations report said that more than $200 billion was invested globally in green technology and renewable energy in 2017; since 2004, $2.9 trillion was invested in solar and wind power sources.
Toxic Electronics Materials
In all likelihood, you have no idea what makes up the components of your average electronic device and the chemistry behind it. It is safe to say you would not want a cocktail or drink with most of the toxic ingredients in them, but that is exactly what we are mixing in our oceans and waterways.
Everyday electronics contain a large number of chemicals that cause issues with human health. Many of these chemicals also escape into the environment, water, soil, and air.
Electronic waste generated worldwide in 2019 was roughly 54 million metric tons. Asia is the largest contributor to electronic waste globally. The United States is following closely behind, and worldwide E-Waste is projected to increase by 30 percent to 74.7 Metric tons per year by 2030.
The following is a list of Toxic Electronics Materials and Electronic Waste.
|A radioactive source in smoke alarms
|Semiconductors, diodes, and infrared detectors
|Printed circuit boards, thermal grease used on heatsinks for CPUs, and power transistors
|Plastic polymers, computer-printed circuit boards, connectors, plastic covers, and electrical cables
|Plastic polymers, computer printed circuit boards, connectors, plastic covers, and electrical cables
|Found in Nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries
|Corrosion inhibitor on circuit boards, metal coatings to protect from corrosion.
|Solder, lead-acid in batteries, CRT monitor glass
|Computer monitors, fluorescent tubes
|Plastic enclosures, cables, wires, and connectors
|PFOA – Perfluorooctanoic acid
|Insulators for electric wires, lithium-ion battery chemistry
|PVC – Polyvinyl chloride
|Electrical cable insulation
|Production of electronic devices, fiber optics, camera lenses, switches, and closures.
Companies Going Green Tech
There are also many startup green tech companies now more than ever. Established corporations are going green, acknowledging that this is something they have to do in their daily operations to achieve sustainability and meet the demands of a more eco-conscious society of consumers.
This concept brings us back to the main question. If you’re familiar with the sustainability triangle, you’ll know that its three pillars consist of economic, ecological, and social sustainability. Green technology can be sustainable if there’s an equal balance between them. When you reconcile economic and social developments with the environment, all the world’s population needs can be addressed for our future generations.
But the important thing here, too, is that if each one of us has a vision of a green tech future. Then we can all do our part in saving our planet’s resources for our now and tomorrow for our children.
Please see some of our other interesting articles on Green Technology, such as “What is Sustainability on an Eco-Friendly Smartphone?” and “Why Use A Biodegradable Phone Case?”
What Are Some Other Types of Green Technology?
Now that we’ve established what green technology is, let’s look at some of the different types and examples. They can range from simple tasks that you can do at home and within your budget to sophisticated systems with more upfront expenses that will take a while before you get a return of investment.
Biodegradable and Sustainable Electronic Components
Biodegradable and Sustainable Electronic components are parts built into electronic devices such as home appliances, vehicles, cell phones, hairdryers, televisions, or any other electronic device. If the electronic device itself, whole or in part, is biodegradable, they have the ability not to fill our oceans and landfills forever and will eventually dissolve or degrade with the right conditions.
The green technology of recycling is one of the most basic types that anyone can and should do. We use green technology during the recycling process, including turning waste residue and biomass into clean energy. So, instead of dumping your trash into a landfill, recycle items made of paper, plastic, glass, and metal. Then upcycle them, which means repurposing and turning them into an entirely new object.
LED Lights are another simple example of green tech. Avoiding incandescent lights can substantially add to the efficiency of the light because they use up less energy. If you have a little bit of a budget, upgrade to smart LEDs in your home. What’s more, a study shows that LED lamps attract fewer insects, reducing exposure to Malaria.
Renewable Energy Sources
By far, the conversion of renewable resources to usable and efficient energy is among the most essential types of green technology. This technology includes solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal wells. Yes, they’re expensive, and the latter two aren’t readily available everywhere, but they’re safer and better alternatives to fossil fuels.
Sustainable Development and Building
Architects, designers, engineers, and building owners can make a “green” building. With the help of green technology during the planning, construction, and operation of facilities, it can reduce energy use and wastage. They can also use natural light to minimize the need for more lighting and put adequate insulation to lessen the need for heating.
A Tesla may be out of your budget, but brands like Nissan, BMW, Ford, and Chevy are good options too. Wireless charging capabilities are just one of the ever-evolving advances in electric vehicle technology. However, EV cars aren’t as sustainable as they should be right now, but zero emissions and better gas mileage still make them better than petrol-powered vehicles for most applications.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Green Technology?
There’s always a good and bad in every concept or idea, so it’s only fair that we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of green technology.
Advantages of Green Technology
- It will help slow down the issue of global warming. Using green tech to develop innovative and alternative methods of producing energy can reduce our carbon footprint.
- It will reduce pollution. This description includes air, soil, water, and plastic pollution. If we use proper alternatives made possible by green technology, it can help lessen the damage and negative impact on our environment.
- It may save our natural resources. By switching from using fossil fuels to renewable resources, we may stop depleting our resources.
- It offers more job and business opportunities. Green technology is a fast-growing industry, generating many career opportunities—from environmental engineers to setting up your own startup company.
Disadvantages of Green Technology
- Initial costs are high. Implementing new technologies can be expensive. Getting new insulation or a roof installed in your home can cost a lot. Even for big companies, switching from using fossil to renewable energy can be costly. That’s why some hesitate to go green because of upfront costs.
- Green products are expensive. As green technology permeates society and is used in every aspect of our lives, it becomes more affordable with demand and production. In the future, when Green Product’s costs and processes are optimized, green tech can be more accessible to consumers. For now, we can expect to possibly pay thousands of dollars more for new technology like a hybrid car.
- The general public lacks knowledge; therefore, there’s a lack of consumer acceptance. If there’s a lack of customer demand, progress and mass-market production will slow down.
- There is Greenwashing. Not everything you see that’s labeled or marketed as green is, in fact, green. This misrepresentation happens when companies claim that what they’re selling is an eco-friendly product when it’s not, so people who lack awareness of such things can be deceived into buying their product.
Why Do We Need Green Electronics and Technology?
This is not about you or me; it is about our children and future generations. If we, as a society, can quit thinking about comfort and ourselves for five minutes, then we could realize what is really going on and what we are doing. The World Health Organization reports that air pollution is the cause of 4.2 million deaths yearly. Based on their forecast, approximately 250,000 more deaths per year are expected from air pollution between 2030 and 2050 because of climate change.
These are just two of the many alarming statistics that you can expect to see if you look up the consequences of climate change. But they are significant reasons why we need to turn to green technology and its benefactors. It’s our best hope to counteract the effect of this crisis.
Our planet is suffocating from the pollution we have created. If we actively use green technology, it can help reduce this issue. With alternative methods and green innovations, it can rehabilitate our depleting natural resources. Most importantly, it’s in our best interests to live sustainably for our children and their children.
Biodegradable innovations and chemistries that have not been investigated nor invented yet are surely coming. With Artificial Intelligence and forward-thinking focused on the planet and our environment, Green Tech will continue to grow and be a requirement for our future survival on planet Earth.
Green Electronics Technology is sustainable if all of us do our part. As consumers, we should be smarter in the things we buy and be careful about deceptive “green” labels and marketing. As socially responsible individuals, even if we only make little changes in the way we live, it can already have a big and long-term impact. As cliche as it is: reduce, reuse, recycle because this is not a political issue; it is a human issue.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Learn About Sustainability
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: National Environmental Policy Act
- “Green” electronics: biodegradable and biocompatible materials and devices for sustainable future – Chemical Society Reviews (RSC Publishing) DOI:10.1039/C3CS60235D
- Electronic waste
- National Centers for Environmental Information: Global Climate Report – Annual 2020
- UN Environment Programme: Banking on Sunshine: World Added Far More Solar Than Fossil Fuel Power Generating Capacity in 2017
- We Don’t Mine Enough Rare Earth Metals to Replace Fossil Fuels With Renewable Energy
- The Royal Society Publishing: Tuning the white light spectrum of light emitting diode lamps to reduce attraction of nocturnal arthropods
- World Health Organization: Air Pollution
- World Health Organization: Climate change
- Investopedia: Green Tech Definition
- UCLA Sustainability: What is Sustainability?
- International Journal of Science and Engineering Applications: Advantages and Disadvantages of Green Technology; Goals, Challenges and Strengths
- Environmental Conscience: 26 Key Pros & Cons Of Green Technologies