If we’re listening, we need to ask if what we’re doing is enough to protect the planet and cool the effects of the current and very real climate crisis? As we start a new year and a new decade, we have been inspired by those driving environmental change around the globe.
For example, have you seen the new Tesla concept truck? A truck changed physically and powered completely differently. Built with vision. While we may not all need a truck that’s bullet and sledgehammer proof, we do need this vision for change.
Drivers of change make us see differently. They make us see that there is hope and possibility. By taking a task and looking at alternative solutions we suddenly have a new way of seeing how to do something. Here’s a few of our favourite change drivers from 2019.
On July 29th, 2019, in a single day, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia did something remarkable. He “led a blitz to plant 353 million trees”1 as part of a commitment to plant 4 billion trees. The cost? $548 million USD, or 1% of Ethiopia’s GDP to the program.
If Canada did the same and invested 1% of it’s GDP to plant trees over the next eight years, it could “remove up to half of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) that have been deposited by humankind in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.”1
Powering with Horses
The Helsinki International Horse Show 2019 got serious about horsepower.
For four days, 90 metric tons of manure from competing horses powered 150 megawatt hours of energy for lighting, scoreboards, cell phone charging stations, and a packed spectator arena. All surplus energy went back into the Helsinki grid to heat homes.
“Horse manure is relatively energy-rich, ash free and dry … as a chemical substance, it is surprisingly close to wood chips.”2
This manure-to-energy technology was developed by Finnish utility Fortum as an internal start up five years ago. Since 2015, 60 000 metric tonnes of manure have been collected in Finland as the business thrives. Fun fact, it takes the manure from just two horses to heat a single-family home for one year.2
E-Vehicles Going Deep and Mainstream
It was an electric vehicle (EV) that first broke the 100km/h speed barrier.4 It was 1899. Then for about 120 years electric vehicles were forgotten.
But the EV is back and trending in cities and neighbourhoods where range anxiety is minimized with local charging stations and proximity of amenities. Cities across Canada have adopted EV’s for their municipal fleets, but it is Shenzhen that has become the first city in the world to have completely electrified its municipal fleet which includes 16 000 buses and 22 000 taxis.4
Ford Motor Company says that an “all electric F-150 is on the way”4 and has promised to invest $11 billion in EV’s by 2023. Like Ford, Tesla has shown us with their new concept truck, that there is room for EV’s to be not just a city commuter but a work horse as well. In fact, “The next boom in electrical vehicles could be the world’s mining fleet.”3
Global mining companies are swapping diesel powered tools and machinery for electric lithium-ion powered rechargeable equipment. By doing so they significantly lower carbon emissions and create a healthier environment underground for miners. Offsetting the purchase price of EV machinery is the cost reduction of removing pollution from mining tunnels which is estimated to be about 40% of an underground mine’s total energy cost.3
Other mining companies, such as Rio Tinto PLC, are exploring the hybrid potential of their heavy-haul trains. “Imagine a giant battery on one of those locomotives that is taking energy from the train as it is braking, storing it and then it can use it when it needs power on the network.”3
Challenging our Partners to Make Change
These stories stand out for being creative solutions to our basic problem: How do we do what we do, and want or need to do, with far less impact on the environment?
At Baumen we are fortunate to be working with partners, teams and design professionals that are driving change in innovation and low-carbon products for a sustainable future. If your design team is creatively making a difference, Baumen wants to hear from you. Engineering sustainable Partnerships.
Here are Baumen’s low-carbon initiatives for 2020:
- A plastic-less office – eliminating any single use plastic in our office and substituting, if necessary, with a reusable and recyclable product
- Net Zero garbage (all product coming into our office will be recycled, composted, reused or re-purposed)
- Energy sourced from renewable sources – Bullfrog power
- Energy efficient LED lighting
- Car pooling and making our fleet more energy efficient by replacing our fleet with hybrid and electric vehicles when up for renewal.
- Using water filters over plastic bottles.
- Using reusable coffee cups and water bottles when in the office and travelling.
- Participating in local and global tree planting programs
1- Corporate Knights: Volume 18 Issue 4. Fall 2019. The world needs more Ethiopia and less Exxon.
2- The Toronto Star: Insight for Sunday, November 3, 2019. New meaning to horse power.
3- The Toronto Star: Business for Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The next frontier for e-vehicles: underground.
4- Corporate Knights: Volume 18 Issue 4. Fall 2019. Amazon, Ford, Shenzhen rev electric vehicles into high gear.