Small Entrepreneurs with Huge Potential

With any problem that our species faces as a whole, come new and creative ideas to solve these problems. A group of innovators steps up and tries to solve the problem to the best of their ability. Climate change is one of these huge problems that our species is facing today. The forecast for climate change is grim, but that is not all there is to the story. There are tons of small entrepreneurs that are reinventing energy and that are poised to save the planet through their ideas.

“Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity” Julia Gillard

As an eager freshman determined to face the climate change problem head on, I came across this book called Earth: The Sequel by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn. This book is all about how small entrepreneurs are using capitalism to save the world.

Harman's refrigerator fan.

Harman’s refrigerator fan.

One way these innovators are trying to solve climate change is by finding ways to make products more efficient. An example of this is PAX Scientific in San Rafael, California. Founded in 1997, Jay Harman harnessed nature’s efficiency to mundane products: fans and mixers, propellers and turbines. He first noticed that seaweed will twist itself into a coil in order for water to easily pass through it with the least possible resistance. Harman translated these natural shapes into mathematical algorithms that made these products. One of their first products was a little fan for refrigerator motors that is 25% more efficient than the conventional fans. If everyone who owned a refrigerator had this motor, it would translate to 219,000 megawatt-hour of electricity not being used (Krupp and Horn, 2008). Not too shabby for a refrigerator fan.

Another example is Serious Material, a construction company founded in 2002 by Marc Porat. Snoop Dogg was actually one of Porat’s first costumers. A product that is now in the market is called EcoRock, a type of drywall. Drywall produces 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide each year. These emissions come from the burning required to dry gypsum, grind it, boil it with water, shaping it, and drying it. EcoRock cooks itself through exothermic chemical reactions. Since it needs no heaters, it produces little to no carbon dioxide. It is also stronger, cheaper, and lighter than conventional drywall (Krupp and Horn, 2008).

A quick, little ted talk on EcoRock:

These are just several examples of the many entrepreneurs mentioned in this book that have the potential to change the way we deal with climate change. With new challenges, comes new solutions. With climate change being a complex problem, there are more opportunities for people to share their ideas on ways to solve this problem. Personally, I had only heard of a handful of these companies before reading this book. It is a shame that these companies have big ideas and even developed better, more efficient technology, but are not getting much recognition. Maybe if they did get the recognition they deserve and their products were more integrated into our lives, climate change would be much different than it is today.

References:

Krupp, Fred, and Miriam Horn. Earth, the Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.

But Baby, It’s Cold Outside

It happens every winter. It is cold outside, there are kids to think about, our cars are old, and we need some way of looking out the windshield. All perfectly good excuses to go outside and warm our car up for a couple of minutes. While your car is warming up, it is spewing out carbon dioxide from its back end. A major greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

The average car emits 411 grams of CO2 per mile (USEPA, 2014). But how much CO2 is coming out of your car in the several minutes it warms up in the driveway? Let’s say the average person warms their car up for 10 minutes (Motavalli, 2012). And on average, that person drives at a speed of 40 miles an hour. Hence it takes 1 and half minutes to drive 1 mile (If I did my math correctly). Leaving their car idling in the driveway in those ten minutes means they could have driven 15 miles! This is also assuming they are going at a constant speed the moment they start driving, with no stopping. So, the real amount of miles is probably 10-15 miles. 15 miles times 411 grams of CO2 emitted per mile gives you a total of 6165 grams of CO2 emitted from the car idling in the driveway in that 10 minutes. That is a good amount of CO2 spewed into the atmosphere and they haven’t even started driving yet!

The fuel used to warm up cars, could have been used to produce more food.

But if I, just one person, warm up my car for a couple minutes it is okay right? Well, if only a handful of people do this, it wouldn’t be too bad. However, if everyone thinks this and warm up their car anyways, then we have millions of people each emitting 6165 grams on CO2 into the atmosphere. This is called tragedy of the commons, when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gains (Investopedia, 2009). In this case, individuals are neglecting to think about our atmosphere in the hopes of having a slightly warmer car.

Is there a benefit to starting up your car a couple minutes early? People normally warm up their car to get the engine warmed before driving. Or if your car is like mine, the power steering stinks and warming up your car is supposed to help with that. But it doesn’t. Warming up your car only warms up the engine and the interior of the car. It does not warm up the steering, wheel bearings, or the tires (Natural Resources Canada, 2015). The only way to warm up these parts of the car is to drive it.

We all have been guilty of this at some point. Warming up the car to have it be a little warmer before actually driving it. But this small benefit has major consequences, especially if a lot of people do it. It causes over 6000 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Next time, it gets chilly outside (as it does every winter), put on some gloves or a hat instead of warming up your car. Try scrapping the ice of your windshield instead of waiting for it to defrost. If you need to warm up your car, try cutting down the amount of time you let it idle. This small change can make a huge impact on the amount of CO2 that goes into our atmosphere.

 

References:

  1. Epa, U.s. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle (EPA-420-F-14-040a, May 2014) (n.d.): n. pag. US Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Transportation and Air Quality, May 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2016.
  2. “Tragedy Of The Commons Definition | Investopedia.”Investopedia. N.p., 22 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.
  3. Natural Resources Canada. “Vehicle Warm-Up.” Natural Resources Canada. Government of Canada, 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.
  4. Motavalli, Jim. “Better to Warm Up Your Car Or Not?” Esquire. N.p., 28 Jan. 2012. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.