As another year begins, it is time to reaffirm our faith in building a better world and looking further into the future. We do not know what the future holds, but we know that what we do every day makes a difference. In the words of Jane Goodall, “we have to decide what kind of difference we want to make."
In essence, the future really starts now.
Thinking ahead, some perceptive and creative people worldwide are working beyond their everyday actions to create solutions for things we do and would like to carry on doing in a more sustainable way, like getting Christmas trees for the holidays.
Results from the annual survey from the American Christmas Tree Association reveal that as many as 95 million American households celebrate the holidays displaying a Christmas tree. From that total, 82 percent of the trees are artificial.
The downside of artificial trees, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, is that they are made from “chemical-laden plastics, and the fact that most artificial trees are made in China and shipped abroad, (it is) estimated that you would have to use your fake tree about 20 years to offset its eco-impact.”
A more sustainable option is already available: real Christmas trees. However, despite the commitment to plant one to three seedlings for every real Christmas tree harvested, trees take time to grow. It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical, 6 to 7 feet, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
A solution to accommodate both — avoiding the effects of artificial trees and the cutting down of real trees — was in order.
Scott Martin of California came up with the idea of renting out real Christmas trees. He founded The Living Christmas Co. (livingchristmas.com) to deliver trees before the holidays and pick them up afterward. The trees are “then repotted and cared for until (they are) available for rental again next year. Each tree can be re-rented for up to seven years, which is about the time it’ll grow too large for in-home use and is planted in its forever home in the local community or nearby forests through a reforestation project.”
Like that, many others seek simple answers to current issues. Take this Ukrainian student, for example. “Valentyn Frechka was a high school student living in rural Ukraine when he began a science project to turn fallen leaves from trees and plants into paper,” Reuters reported. “Three years on, and the 19-year-old is heading an initiative called Re-leaf Paper, producing paper bags and packaging from fibre extracted from dead leaves.”
“Things which are believed to be waste can be reused or recycled. Leaves are waste that need to be removed from parks because they emit a lot of carbon as they rot,” Frechka told Reuters.
Another example of innovative thinking is the 2020 study by Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology graduate students Xi Yang and Eijiro Miyako.
Recognizing the impact that pesticides, land clearing and climate change have on natural pollinators, such as bees and other insects, and the threat to our food system that the declining number of insect pollinators represent, Yang and Miyako developed a study of an alternative to natural pollinators.
In their study, they describe the process of creating automatic intelligent robotic pollination using chemically functionalized soap bubbles and unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver pollen to targeted flowers. According to the study, “such technology would lead to innovative agricultural systems that can tackle the global issues of pollination.” With the pollination issue under control, we may be able to focus on helping bee populations bounce back naturally.
Other projects are taking shape, like E Ink’s The Box, which eliminates the need of cardboard boxes and paper labels for packing materials, and Hydraloop, a residential water recycle system.
New ideas like those, coupled with the fine tuning of our everyday actions, make me believe that we can make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today.
Happy New Year!