WORLD renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who passed away earlier this year, had said: “We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change …
“When we have reached similar crises there has usually been somewhere else to colonise … But there is no new world, no utopia around the corner. We are running out of space, and the only places to go to are other worlds.”
In other words, Prof. Hawking seemed to suggest that humans could cause their own extinction. Be it the overflowing plastic in our water bodies or choking cities, it is our failure to acknowledge the gradual destruction of the environment that is costing us greatly.
However, amidst the chaos that threatens to wipe out the planet, there are inventions which are leading the way towards reversing the damage already done. Along with addressing the growing environmental concerns, these simple inventions are also providing job opportunities for many underprivileged communities.
1. Roads made out of plastic waste
Developed by Padma Shri awardee Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan, the ‘Plastic Man’ of India, these roads are made from the mixing of plastic waste with heated bitumen in a laboratory and surfacing roads with it.
The process is straightforward, requires no new machinery, improves the flexibility of pavements and most importantly – prevents water percolation. Along with finding an environment-friendly way to dispose plastic, this invention also provides an income to ragpickers.
2. Lantana furniture
Lantana, originally from South America, is a type of invasive weed that spreads rapidly and hinders the growth of any other plant species around it. Hence, it is seen as a nuisance and a massive threat to the biodiversity of the region where it is found.
In India, lantana been responsible for destroying the undergrowth in forests and aggravating forest fires. One of the most successful solutions to suppress the proliferation of lantana is by using the shrubs to make furniture, a project first started as a livelihood option for the tribals in the Western Ghats. This has now opened up employment opportunities for many communities.
3. Menstrual cups
Made with plastic, sanitary napkins and tampons have been a huge burden on the environment. Menstrual pads, when disposed, clog sewers and occupy landfills which add to the normal daily waste we produce. Moreover, dioxins in the bleach and potent chemicals that are in feminine hygiene products are harmful to the environment, and incinerating just releases pollutants in the air we breathe
Therefore, a safer option would be to use a menstrual cup which can be reused multiple times. Although previously stigmatised, menstrual cups have come into mainstream favour in recent times. They are comfortable to use and can last up to ten years – much more eco-friendly than single-use sanitary napkins.
4. Eco coolers
A substitute for an air conditioner, eco coolers run on zero electricity and is made out of waste products. First invented by Bangladeshis in an attempt to cope with the unbearable summers they face, especially residents living in tin huts, they can be made in no time at all. It is made by cutting off the bottoms of plastic bottles and fitting the neck into regular holes made in a cardboard which can be placed in an opening or a window. Unbelievably simple!
The principle behind this novel invention is that when the outside air passes through the neck of the bottle, the change in pressure cools the air entering the room. This hand-made machine can drop indoor temperatures by over 5 degrees Celsius.
5. Edible water bottles
With the vision of creating packaging with a low environmental impact, a London-based startup called Skipping Rocks Lab have come up with the edible water bottle.
Called Ooho, pictured above, it is shaped like a ball and is quite literally water in an edible membrane made from seaweed extract, which can be consumed as a whole and is hydrating for the human body. This ingenious invention can put an end to the millions of plastic bottles thrown away every day.
Hopefully these simple, yet fascinating innovations will in time keep climate change in check and take us a step closer to safeguarding our future.
– Compiled by Tarshaa Krishnaraj
Children are the least responsible for climate change but will be the most affected by it. Give generously to Mountain Children’s Foundation who encourage children in remote mountain communities to better to understand the effects of climate change on their futures and work towards protecting the environment.