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What Is Environmental Technology?

By B. Schreiber
Updated May 21, 2024
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Environmental technology refers to the field of science concerned with reducing the human impact on the environment through technological advances or improvements. Some common applications of environmental technology deal with reducing energy consumption, limiting man-made damage to the physical environment, and reducing waste. Areas of research in the field may involve cleaner energy sources, improved energy efficiency in transportation and buildings, and methods that decrease or prevent pollution. This is a broad field that draws on many sciences, some of which include chemistry, ecology, and biology. Innovation and advances in environmental science may have commercial applications, save money, or be designed to meet government regulations.

One focus of environmental technology is on finding, using, and developing clean sources of energy that have a limited impact on the natural environment. The use of fossil fuels in electricity production transportation is not only responsible for releasing particulate matter known as smog, but also for emitting carbon dioxide. According to the United States government and others, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and pollutant with the potential to harm human health through climate change. So-called alternative energy sources could reduce pollution, including air pollutants like carbon dioxide.

Other applications of environmental science may deal with other aspects of electricity generation. This may include improving the efficiency, capacity, or availability of newer power sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels. It may also involve developing relatively newer sources of energy like wave power or hydrogen fuel cells.

Basic economic factors are often a spur to advances in environmental technology. This is due in part to the fact that cost-saving solutions are usually the most efficient. Cost increases of fuels such as gasoline, for instance, have led to technology aimed at reducing fuel consumption. Advances in automobile fuel efficiency lower fuel costs while reducing harmful emissions. Many countries have vehicle efficiency regulations that were originally developed to conserve energy and keep fuel prices low but also help combat pollution problems like smog.

Various ways of making buildings more energy efficient have also been a focus of the science. This could include reducing energy costs related to lighting, heating and cooling, and water use. So-called sustainable or green design refers to the planned use of environmental technology in constructing new buildings that have minimal environmental impact. Environmental science also deals with diverse topics related to human and environmental health, such as waste management, toxicology, and wildlife protection.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Aug 07, 2011

@pastanaga - That's becoming more and more common now, that a company or an individual will offer money in exchange for technology. Often the prize they offer is nothing compared to what will be earned by patents, so it's more like a gauntlet being thrown down than anything else.

It's great though, because as a species, we really need to get cracking on being more environmentally friendly. It's for our own good. We are the ones who are going to have to live with the mess we make, after all.

By indigomoth — On Aug 06, 2011

I've heard that Manhattan is actually one of the best places to see buildings that have been built with environmental impact in mind.

It's such a small, but heavily populated area that they don't really have a choice when designing a building. You'd need to make sure all the people living or working there were healthy and happy and had good access to resources.

But, you'd also have to consider the millions of other people all around and how your building could impact on them. I think the technology they develop there will help cities around the world eventually. Hopefully, they will have the sense to use it

By pastanaga — On Aug 06, 2011

While it's true that there are often economic spurs for the development of environmental technology, I know people have been trying to spur it in other ways recently.

I think it was Richard Branson, for example, who offered a large cash sum as a prize in a competition for inventors. He wanted someone to come up with a viable way of pulling carbon out of the air, in order to help slow down global warming.

I'm not sure who won the competition in the end, but I do know it served its purpose and quite a few people participated in it. There were all kinds of ideas developed by companies and individuals and hopefully some of them can be put to good use.

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