It is not enough to be carbon neutral; we must actively seek to take the gas out of the air and use it. The following innovations are great examples of what is possible.
Scientific evidence makes it clear that we are facing an urgent climate crisis, caused in large part by excess carbon dioxide.
The carbon generated from years of human production has created a layer of gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, which can take thousands of years to dissipate. We must reach “net zero” carbon emissions as soon as we can, by removing as much carbon as we emit, as scientists have warned that if we don’t act within the next 10 years, the damage will become irreversible.
Here at Springwise, we are keen to promote innovations that are aiming to achieve such carbon negativity. It is not enough to be carbon neutral; we must actively seek to take the gas out of the air and use it, and the following innovations and startups are taking positive steps towards doing this.
1. CO2 POLLUTION TURNED INTO HIGH-END SIPPING VODKA
The New York City-based technology and lifestyle company Air Co. recently introduced its first product — carbon-negative vodka. Using solar energy to power its proprietary process, the company captures, heats and transforms carbon dioxide into valuable goods.
Electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide into alcohol isn’t new. What is new is the drinkability of the final product. The process of turning air pollution into a luxury drink is similar to that of photosynthesis in plants. Heated water splits into hydrogen and oxygen, which when combined with carbon dioxide, creates alcohol and water. The company then distils the new mixture until the alcohol reaches the appropriate strength.
2. BUY A JUMPER, ADOPT A SHEEP FROM THIS CARBON-NEGATIVE CLOTHING COMPANY
Sheep Inc. is trying to reduce its carbon footprint, while drawing attention to the origin and journey of its products. When customers buy a jumper from Sheep Inc., not only do they receive a high-quality product made from the merino wool of sheep from rural New Zealand, but they are also sent regular updates about the very sheep from which their jumper was made.
Labelling itself “the world’s first carbon-negative fashion brand”, when owners of a Sheep Inc. jumper scan a yellow tag at the bottom of the product, they are privy to its manufacturing process and carbon footprint. The company will also send updates about the customer’s allocated sheep: “its major life events. Where it is. What it’s up to. When it’s had a haircut. Even whether it’s had lambs.”
3. DESIGNER CREATES CARBON-NEGATIVE RAINCOAT
New York designer, Charlotte McCurdy, created plastic made from algae, which takes CO2 out of the atmosphere. She has fashioned the plastic into a raincoat, which is being exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial in New York City.
McCurdy’s raincoat was made by binding the algae with heat and then pouring the resulting material into custom-made moulds. The pattern is cut into the plastic while it is still in the mould. Once cooled and solidified, the translucent plastic is given a thin coating of wax to make it more water-proof and then assembled into the finished raincoat.
McCurdy has gone further than using algae in the jacket’s production – the entire jacket is made of algae, including all of the snaps and threads. Her studio also runs on renewable energy, and when she could not find a non-petroleum-based vegan wax, she developed an entirely plant-based waterproofing one, which not only keeps the wearer dry, but removes carbon from the environment.
4. CARBON-NEGATIVE JEWELLERY
California-based company, Go Negative, has developed a bracelet made with captured atmospheric carbon. The company hopes that by buying its products, consumers will help Go Negative become a major buyer of Direct Air Capture carbon, demonstrating that there is a big demand for the technology.
The carbon in the bracelets is provided by Carbon Upcycling Technologies, which has developed a way to store concentrated CO2 in solid materials. Each bead is a blend of atmospheric carbon and naturally-sourced clay, held together with natural fibres.
5. FOOD-TECH COMPANY CREATES PROTEIN POWDER FROM CO2
Finnish food-tech company, Solar Foods, developed a protein-powder made from air pollution.
The texture and taste of “Solein” powder is similar to flour; however, production is completely different from that of traditional agriculture. Arable land is not needed, nor is an unsustainable volume of water. One kilogram of Solein requires only 10 litres of water, compared to the 2,500 litres needed to create a kilogram of soy.
The captured CO2 is transformed into a single-cell protein through a natural fermentation process facilitated by electricity and water. The company powers the fermentation process with renewable energy, creating a carbon-negative product.
6. ARCHITECT FINDS A WAY TO TURN AIR INTO DRINKING WATER
A growing problem today is access to clean water, even in developed countries where water sources often contain high numbers of micro-plastics. An innovative system, led by architect David Hertz, could be a solution to future water shortages.
Hertz, in a partnership from the US called the Skysource/Skywater Alliance, developed a system to harvest drinking water from the air. WEDEW combines hot and cold air to create condensation, a method that can generate 2000 litres of drinking water a day. The water is then stored in shipping containers for easy transportation.
7. 3D-PRINTING FROM ALGAE BIOPLASTIC ELIMINATES WASTE
Studio Eric Klarenbeek found a method for turning industrial organic waste products such as potato starch and cocoa husks into biodegradable furniture and home accessories. The studio grows mycelium fungi for use as a colouring and binding agent that holds the bioplastics together once they are printed.
By growing and printing with algae, the studio is able to produce pieces that are even better than carbon neutral. They are carbon negative because the fungi live by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
5th February 2020