Green Technology Products for Sustainable Development

ELVIN THOMAS

School of Environmental Sciences, Mahatma Candhi University, Priyadarsini Hills P.O., Kottayam 686560, Kerala, India E-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

ABSTRACT

Iii this chapter we have developed a brief review of the history of green technology for sustainable development along with an update of its current status. We have also presented new insights in green technology products with sustainable development.

INTRODUCTION

With increasing population and urbanization raising the living standards of an average human, the damage inflicted upon the environment through depletion of the world’s stock of fossil fuels for energy and the subsequent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is monstrous. Society’s approach to every product available as well as manufactured with a cradle-to-grave philosophy of extract-process-consume-dispose has led to the accumulation of large amounts of waste subsequently polluting the environment. This led to the search for clean and sustainable energy supplies as well as ways to reduce waste and maximize resource efficiency, all of which gave birth to green technology. Green technology encompasses all products, services, and practices that take into account the long-term as well as short-term impacts it causes to the environment. It thereby implements technology in a maimer that minimizes environmental impact as well as resource consumption without compromising on the economic output. Both green chemistry and gr een engineering seek to maximize efficiency and minimize health and environmental hazards throughout the chemical production process providing a framework for the development of green technology products (Figure 3.1). Green products as defined by the Commission of European Communities (2001) are products that '‘use less resources, have lower impacts and risks to the environment and prevent waste generation already at the conception stage.”1 They are developed with the aim to reduce waste and maximize resource efficiency by making products that can be firlly reclaimed and reused, which in effect prevents pollution of the environment.

RE 3.1 General overview of green technology products

FIG U RE 3.1 General overview of green technology products.

Facing the harsh realities of climate change and global warming, now more than ever before the world is striving to be green through the use of green technology. The green technology and sustainability market is now a multibillion business anticipating to grow from S8.7 billion in 2019 to $28.9 billion by 2024.2 A majority of the current population assume green technology to be the future or, at the least, a fairly novel technology. Though the degree of widespread interest in the use of green technology products to abate the consequences of climate change is quite recent, the history of green technology is not so new. Green technology has been used by humans since time immemorial, but it is only since the 1990s that people started taking it seriously. This would be clear as the present chapter, developed with an intention to outline a brief review of the history of green technology, an update of its current status, and an attempt to prognosticate its future, unfolds.

GREEN TECHNOLOGY DURING PREHISTORIC TIMES

The power that conies with technology has faschiated human minds ever since the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. The Oldowan stone tools formed almost 2.5 million years ago by Homo habilis, ancestors of Homo sapiens, can be considered as the first green technology product. During the Middle Paleolithic, several other tools were developed mainly the Acheulean stone tools, the Levallois technique-based flake tools, and Mousterian stone tools. These miniature stone tools, a major milestone in human evolutionary history, qualified all the modern-day criteria required of a green product. Even though it is not clear when humans began the controlled use of fire for light and warmth, archaeological findings provide evidence of prehistoric humans’ controlled use of fire almost 1 million years ago. This marked the beginning of human dependence on bioenergy. Settlements developed only when the climatic conditions made it impossible for them to live in the open. The early settlements of the Paleolithic humans consisted of caves and open-air encampments that were made using wood, bones, and animal skin (probable leftovers from their hunting expeditions). All these settlements had a hearth inside and were near water sources generally. Many of the caves were also found to be inhabited by humans on a cyclic or seasonal basis for more than 10,000 years.3 These settlements were thus in perfect harmony with the environment. The use of organic fibers in the manufacture of strings and ropes has also been indirectly evidenced in the Paleolithic sites thereby shedding light on the Stone Age fiber technology.4 During the Upper Paleolithic, the ability of clay to retain its shape when dried and baked resulted in the discoveiy of ceramic products, which is being used to date as enablers of clean and green technologies. As the human population intensified, maximum resources began to be extracted from the hunted animal. Grease rendered from the bones along with a wick was used to light and bring warmth to the caves. Leather and animal skin were used as clothes, belts, straps, and shoes. The invention of boats or simple vessels (bamboo shafts) and seaworthy watercraft was another major development during the final phases of this epoch some 40,000 years ago. Thus, it can be concluded that human beings lived up to their utmost ability as an integral part of nature till the very end of Upper Paleolithic. During the Early and Middle Mesolithic, changes in the environment also brought changes in the fauna. With the food resources then available, hunting became much more difficult than in the previous period and so the social groups turned out to be smaller during this period. Subsequently, there occurred a transition from the use of stone tools to small blades and fishing tools made from bones or deer antlers. People began depending more on bird eggs, snails, and mollusks, and also started harvesting more edible plants, fruits, and roots. The settlements became more widely spread than in the Paleolithic. Between seven and eight millennia BP, during the Late Mesolithic, the fixed nature of settlements and population became more marked. Domestication of certain species (sheep and goats) appeared, and pottery-making techniques were soon acquired. Selective hunting and selective harvesting were practiced during this period for the sustainability of resources. As every tool of the prehistoric people who were hunter-gatherers was made using natural resources at their disposal, unintentionally or not they were leading the so-called “green life.” With the life expectancy of the average human during this period being only 30 years and in exceptional cases 40 years, the fact that human groups were still too few to disturb the biological balance of the environment must be noted.3 During this era, most of the energy needs were satisfied by the limited power of human metabolism along with the inefficient use of fire.

The Neolithic or the New Stone Age began about 12,000 years ago making a gradual transition from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled way of life by domesticating plants and animals. This period is also described as the “age of building” marking the transition from Old Stone Age dwellings to New Stone Age permanent buildings. Increased population and intensive fanning during this period required the need for land which led to large-scale forest clearance, often through burning thereby causing long-tenn impacts on the pristine forested environment. Large-scale digging of ditches and channels as well as the building of dikes was evidenced as early as toward the end of the ninth millennium BP, thereby solving issues related to irrigation of excessively diy land and the drainage of excessively wet or marshy lands. Archaeological evidence confirms that rainwater harvesting, now considered a green building practice, was practiced almost 9000 years ago in Jordan and later in many parts of the ancient world.6 This period also witnessed remarkable development hr the field of textiles with the ready availability of fibers from plant sterns such as reeds, maguey or cabuya, rushes, bulrushes, and flax (linen) as well wool from sheep. Clothes made from these fibers may be considered as the first sustainable clothing.

Iii addition, many of these fabrics were colored using natural dyes mainly obtained from vegetables, minerals, and insects or animals making them all the more eco-friendly. The first use of geothermal energy by humans might date back to the Paleolite period (Quaternary times up to 14,000 b.c.e.) when humans discovered the advantages of warm springs and began to use them. However, the first systematic use of geotheimal heat, according to archaeological evidence, began some 11,000 years b.c.e. on a Japanese islands and some 5000 years b.c.e. on the Asian continent. Humans were found to settle in the vicinity of geotheimally active places, where they could bathe, rest, or use hydrothermal or volcanic products. The use of thermal energy and geotheimal by-products (e.g., thermo-mineral mud) for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes abounded in Greek islands. Prehistoric people knew the healing properties of thermal waters and mud to alleviate stress and arthritis, to cure wounds and other skin ailments. The land chosen for the cultivation was often the rich soils close to volcanic zones, regions with thermal springs, fumaroles, gas exhalations, mud lakes, kaolin, sulfur, iron oxide, boron, and many other hydrothermal deposits. The cooking of food indirectly using the heat of the earth was also practiced by prehistoric people. Underground mining and metal working of flint, chert, copper, and gold also occurred during this era. Travois a wooden load-bearing frame structure consisting of two poles whose one end is fastened to a horse or dog and the other end splayed apart was used to haul loads by indigenous people of the Plains Aboriginals of North America. Another groundbreaking technology was the invention of the wheel during the 6th millennium BP. Though at first used for pottery, it later became an essential part of the wagon to which draught animals were harnessed for long-distance transportation, and this use of the wheel spread very fast in the ancient world. Though not as efficient as the present-day green vehicles, these wagons may be considered as the origin of green transportation systems. Even though boats were invented long ago, it was 5000 years ago that sails were invented in Egypt, and humans began using the driving force of the wind for transportation.5 This was the very first time humans began harnessing the power of wind, a major milestone in the development of green technology. Archaeological pieces of evidence point to the “bow-drill fire-making” grasped by humans almost 6000 years ago making them skilled in making fire. Biomass began to be intentionally collected, dried, and used to create fire for cooking, warmth, to clear land, smelt ores, and treat clay artifacts for china, bricks, and tiles.7 The swape or shadoof, which worked with a lever mechanism, was the first irrigation tool developed by the Mesopotamians around 3000 b.c.e. for lifting water, which was then later adopted by several ancient civilizations. The construction of sun-dried mud bricks around 3100 b.c.e. by ancient Egyptians turns out to be the origin of green building materials as we know of now. The sun was also used to dry and preserve food as well as to procure salt from seawater. Saltwater was collected in solar ponds and after the water was evaporated by the sun, the salt remained in the pond. This technology is still in use around the world. Thus, the Neolithic Revolution brought about radical changes in diet, adoption of a sedentary way of life, and, most importantly, increased social stratification between different categories developed during this period. While the hunter-gatherer’s community shared equally among themselves the resources available, the transition to food production put an end to this and instead replaced it with the competition to possess as much in the way of resources and other “prestige objects” possible. What was till then a self-sufficient green economy soon declined.12 The first great energy transition to extrasomatic energy sources occurred during this period with the domestication of draught animals, development of sail for transportation, harnessing of fire and solar energy for the production of metal tools, and other durable materials such as bricks.

 
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