Without a doubt, one of the biggest trends in tech in 2024 is sustainability and it’s evident across practically every area; as the world places an increasingly large importance on tech in every aspect of their life, such as banking, healthcare, and how they interact with others, we’re faced with a question: are we making truly sustainable choices? You might be thinking, “tech is online, right?! It can’t have a negative effect, right?” and this is an extremely common misconception among lots of people, especially because it seems like such a sustainable solution. Why print out pages and pages of notes when you can just open another doc on your computer? Or use large storage solutions instead of the cloud?
The tech world does provide a number of innovative and sustainable solutions, don’t get us wrong. But it does have significant impact on the environment, such as these examples:
Increasing pollution: all forms of pollution (air, water, heat, and noise) can be heightened by both creating and using different forms of technology.
Using non-renewable resources: lots of technology is made with non-renewable resources like metals and other valuable resources, such as coal and water, are used to create energy needed for technology.
Increasing waste: lots of electronics have short lifespans and contribute to the growing problem of waste once they’re thrown out; the actual process of creating electronics also creates lots of waste.
Disrupting ecosystems and the environment: previously clean and habitable environments have been made unlivable for many animals, thanks to factories or landfills.
Introducing new health concerns for humans: technology has made our lives easier, but this has led to more time spent staring at computer screens or being able to do everything online, reducing time spent exercising.
Contributing to carbon emissions: factories and power plants, in addition to other forms of technology, release carbon emissions which then contribute to global warming.
Seems like it has quite the impact, no? Technology does significantly impact the environment, there’s no doubt about it. But as more and more people have learned about the potential dangers of technology and its impact on the environment, more and more professionals and companies are taking the first step towards identifying potential problems and finding sustainable, environmentally-focused solutions.
Before we dive right into green practices in tech, let’s cover sustainable technology itself and why it’s so important.
What is Sustainable Technology?
To counteract the effects listed above (waste, pollution, and nonrenewable resources, among others), sustainable technology has moved to the forefront of many tech professional’s focuses in recent years. Simply put, sustainable technology isn’t just focused on improving the environmental consequences of technology; it does focus on the environment, but also prioritizes natural resources and economic and social development.
The three main areas of sustainable technology include:
Substitution: to lessen the impact of using non-renewable resources and non-biodegradable materials constantly, sustainable technology aims to substitute renewable resources and biodegradable materials.
Prevention: sustainable technology aims to predict the future impacts that actions could have on the environment through deterioration and contamination and avoid them altogether.
Efficiency: some energy must be used and some waste will be created, but ensuring technology is efficiently using resources helps limit the overall environmental impact.
Having trouble picturing exactly what sustainable technologies could look like? Don’t worry--we know it’s a relatively new concept for many and one that’s just starting to take off. Here are some of the most typical examples of sustainable technology in action:
Public transport: this seems so common that it can’t be counted as sustainable, right? On the contrary, public transport is a form of sustainability that encourages users to reduce their carbon footprint and share transportation with others. In addition, public transportation that runs on time and according to schedule with live updates is more popular among residents; this comes directly from artificial intelligence technology.
Carbon capture, utilization, and storage: this sounds complicated, so we’ll make it as straightforward as possible: CCUS technology helps to capture and then make use of the CO2 emitted by industrial activities, limiting the negative effects it has on the environment.
LED lights: LED lights have significantly grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to their long lifespan, less frequent need for replacement, and less energy used. LED lights are a great example of a technology that took the necessary steps to improve upon an invention (the lightbulb) that was widely used and would continue to be, creating the ultimate sustainable lighting device.
Why should businesses choose sustainable technology?
At first glance, committing to sustainable technology may seem like a surefire way to lengthen your business processes or spend more money, and we’re not going to lie: this may happen. But committing to sustainable technology is good for business, we promise:
Companies that commit to sustainable technology practices are more likely to be supported by long-term investors, who recognize the importance of protecting the environment.
Tech professionals are also realizing the importance of sustainable practices in tech and are looking for companies that share their values. To attract and retain top talent, make sustainability a priority.
Learning how to effectively and efficiently use resources is not only beneficial for the environment; it will ultimately help you save time and money in your own processes.
Green Practices in Tech
Now that you know the dangers that tech can pose to the environment and why businesses need to prioritize sustainable practices, it’s time to dive into some specific green practices in tech that you can expect to see in 2024. There are too many to list here, but we’ve chosen some of the most stellar ones that will help you see how the tech world is really taking sustainability seriously.
Environmentally friendly devices
As we mentioned above, the creation of tech gadgets and devices can have negative effects on the environment; however, in 2024, we can expect to see manufacturers making a shift towards prioritizing using both recycled and biodegradable materials in their designs. They are also focusing on using out-of-use devices such as old laptops or mobile devices as these recycled materials, which not only encourages recycling, but also reduces waste.
By showing consumers and competitors alike that you can commit to sustainability without compromising the integrity, speed, and quality of the device, more and more will be encouraged to take similar steps.
Online data centers
You’ve heard us talk about the cloud and all that it offers, but some forget to include the importance that sustainability plays on the introduction of the cloud. Prior to the cloud, companies stored their data in large and energy-sucking data centers that were not only difficult to manage, but also were detrimental to the environment around them. With the cloud came the possibility of eliminating these physical storage systems and reducing the carbon footprint of technology--an overall positive.
It really seems like artificial intelligence can do it all, right? Make sure you add sustainability to that list--thanks to the ability of artificial intelligence to measure and evaluate large amounts of data, professionals can create algorithms used to predict climate patterns, improve environmental practices, and optimize energy grids.
The introduction of artificial intelligence has allowed professionals to access incredible amounts of data, which helps get a better overall vision of how things are working and affecting other areas; sustainability practices are better tracked and evaluated with the help of artificial intelligence.
Increased international collaboration
Two hands are better than one, right? In the case of sustainability, all hands on deck are welcome and with more ideas and distinct perspectives, governments and companies will be able to both share their ideas with others and learn, helping them try things that were previously unheard of.
But the sharing of ideas isn’t the only valuable benefit of worldwide collaboration; as sustainable practices become more widestream, common, and practiced, more and more companies and individuals will commit to sustainable practices on their own, which will improve global sustainability overall.
For years, designers have been told that they’re designing just for the human and should do everything within their power to make the user experience as great as possible. While this is true, UX/UI designers are starting to prioritize the environment in their designs through practices such as design by nature, which promotes inclusivity while minimizing negative environmental impacts.
Through applying sustainable, circular, and regenerative design principles, UX/UI designers can choose both the user and the environment.
The future is clear and it’s looking quite green: more and more companies will continue prioritizing sustainable designs and practices and it’s clear it’s the right thing to do. After all, we only have one planet and we’ve found new and innovative ways to transform our previous ideas into more sustainable versions--we can do it again and again.
If you’re ready to get started on your tech journey and are looking for the right place to get started, you’re in the right place. At Ironhack, our syllabi consist of the latest trends in the technology sector, preparing our graduates to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Ready to get started? Check out our courses below.