As the world population grows and we continue to consume energy and resources, we are realizing that there is a bottom to the bucket and we must turn to sustainability options and optimization to ensure our resources are protected for future generations. The future can be brighter, but only if we work together to spend smartly, explore new options, and use what we already have to its full potential.
Here are some predictions about how a focus on resource optimization can change the future.
1. Individuals take special interest in tax distribution
Ever wonder where you taxes really go and if they make a difference? An opinion piece in the Boston Globe authored by Farah Stockman, provides the results of a study from Texas A&M University economist, Catherine Eckel, which show that this type of transparency might lead to higher acceptance of paying required state and government taxes. Eckel’s experiment gave volunteers $20, with the option to pocket all of it or to donate some to the federal government. Given the option, 80 percent choose to donate, giving an average of $1.68 each. When Eckel allowed them to target their donation to two specific federally funded programs, people gave far more – they donated an average of $4.04 to disaster relief and $5.52 to cancer research. Eckel said that, “People are willing to give close to three times as much when they can target the money.” This type of involvement could change how society views taxes and government spending.
2. The resources on the moon could become part of our “world”
With a 2015 deadline, Google is encouraging companies to explore the options of putting more than just a man on the moon – they want a company to mine the moon using a robot, which will explore the surface of the mysterious space structure. The competition boasts a $20 million first prize, which will be awarded to the first privately-funded company to land a robot on the Moon that successfully explores the surface by moving at least 500 meters and sends high-definition video back to Earth. Since we know there is water on the moon and water supports life and agriculture, and can be a source of rocket fuel, the successful robot might find more than just Neil Armstrong’s footprints and it could open the door to understanding a new part of our universe.
3. What if the universe was our next fuel source?
There is an interesting concept that the universe might have particles that could become a potential fuel source – that is antimatter. Antimatter, as described by LiveScience, is the “bizzaro twin of matter.” It is “made up of antiparticles that have the same mass as ordinary matter but with opposite atomic properties known as spin and charge. When the opposed particles meet, they annihilate each other and release tremendous amounts of energy as dictated by Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2.” This concept seems promising, but the glitch is that there is only a limited amount available in the universe and laboratory production is neither cheap nor easy. NASA, however, is funing research into creating antimatter drives that could become fuel sources in the future.
4. What if a balloon powered our home?
Thinking about trying to capture solar energy to save some money on energy costs? You may automatically start researching solar panels as your primary option, but how about balloons? Inventor Joseph Cory and his aerospace engineer partner, Pini Gurfil, created solar balloons made with photovoltaic solar cells, which could power an entire home. While these balloons haven’t quite taken off, they are a developed option that could become available for homes and because of their lightweight and flexible structures, they could be used in disaster areas where energy is sparse.
5. What if moon travel defined commercial business?
Imagine going on a business meeting at the moon. The idea isn’t too out of this world as space travel for recreational and business purposes is being explored. As Wikipedia explains, “A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, such as Virgin Galactic, with hopes to create a space tourism industry.” Other companies, such as SpaceX, are innovating rockets and spacecrafts with the goal of “enabling people to live on other planets.” While that goal may currently seem a bit lofty, Leonardo DiCaprio shows us that one can at least visit outer space in 2014 and maybe by 2028, we might all have the same opportunity.
6. Corporations focus on sustainability and their leftover energy powers the city around them
A few years back, Cooler Planet, a solar energy company created an infographic to show ten major businesses that run on a minimum of 100 percent renewable energy. In a Forbes article featuring the infographic, they explained this concept by writing, “Thanks to smart meters and other changes to the grid and regulations, companies that generate more energy than they use can sell the energy back to utilities for other customers to use. That, in turn, allows utilities to reduce the amount of energy they produce from non-renewable and greenhouse gas producing sources like coal and natural gas.” Ultimately, these top sustainable companies could redistribute their energy and fuel the communities around them.
7. Food for human consumption and energy could be more bark than bite
With a firsthand understanding of the threats of famine and an unstable food chain, Percival Zhang, grew up with an interest in exploring alternative food sources. Through his observations and experimentations, Zhang realized that some plants that were easy to sustain (trees, bushes, and grass) could have the potential to be converted into food. In a study published this spring with colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Zhang explains a process he developed to transform solid cellulose — which could come from wood, grass or crop residue (like corn husks) — into a carbohydrate called amylose. This practice of synthetic biology could be an option for creating food sources when a stable food chain isn’t readily available.
8. A company’s smartest resources may not be company resources
Although human capital is the number one resource of any company that isn’t completely automated, smart resources can be found in newer technologies that allow companies to optimize what they already have and become more efficient. As the world’s resources become scarcer, companies must get creative and optimize their human capital and technological resources to their fullest potential to continue to thrive. Turning toward technologies such as cloud computing can reduce energy consumption and the need for manufactured hardware, and can ultimately save time and money.
9. Suburban living may be ‘sub-optimal’ for many
The New York Times cited a recent study that proclaimed, “the suburb-dotted New York counties of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk, based on United States census data, found that those young people seem to be lingering longer in New York City, sometimes forsaking suburban life entirely.” This shift in lifestyle choice by the millennial generation is causing confusion among demographers and they have not completely pinpointed the root of this evolving mindset. Although some theories point toward the younger generations valuing denser, more compact urban environments that offer a number of amenities within walking distance of where they live, other theories hold strong to the idea that “growing up” in the 21st century is different. Millennials are less interested in owning and maintaining (like you do in the suburbs) and more interested in renting and living their lives without as many physical ties. The flexibility of city living could become even more appealing as cities become smarter and communities become more connected.
Get involved in the conversations on the Future of Business and read, watch and learn about how we must optimize our resources to reduce waste, protect our planet, and learn about the world around us.
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