A Green Economic Recovery is Within Reach
As a global society our progress toward a green economy has been sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, while, economically speaking, it should be exactly the opposite. This is particularly true for the United States with its current economic, health, and political challenges. It's time to move to a new phase -- not just for a clean, green future, but to create jobs that pave the way for a profitable circular economy. Decision-makers need to think differently and move beyond the status quo. Investing in environmental protection can quickly create jobs in new industries, but fragile markets like those we have now, tend to be conservative.
“...more than 8 in 10 individual investors in the U.S. now express interest in sustainable investing, with 95% of millennials interested in sustainable investing.”
According to a 2019 study by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, more than 8 in 10 individual investors in the U.S. now express interest in sustainable investing, with 95% of millennials interested in sustainable investing. ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing can no longer be minimized by Wall Street. What can you say to a climate change denier about building a green economy? If you say it’s to achieve carbon neutrality, they will not care. If you say it's a wonderful idea, they will tell you to come back when it's ready. We at the Solar Impulse Foundation are committed to finding 1,000 clean and profitable solutions to help the environment, and speak about profit and job creation now.
“...a sustainable future is about creating new types of businesses. A true circular economy, one built on qualitative growth, replaces jobs that pollute the environment with new jobs that protect it.”
When people talk about a sustainable future, they usually think about wind and solar and electric vehicles. But it's much more than this. It's about creating new types of businesses. A true circular economy, one built on qualitative growth, replaces jobs that pollute the environment with new jobs that protect it. A recent report by the World Economic Forum indicates that 400 million new jobs can be created by 2030 if we focus on a sustainable future. A circular economy also increases efficiency and reduces waste. Half of our energy, food, and natural resources gets wasted. For example, when you take a shower, the hot water goes down the drain. But, what if you were able to recover that hot water and use it to reheat new, clean water coming for your next shower? If the installation costs were $300, it would quickly be profitable for a family of two or three people in a matter of months and you’d save money with each shower.
“A recent report by the World Economic Forum indicates that 400 million new jobs can be created by 2030 if we focus on a sustainable future.”
I launched the Solar Impulse Foundation and its program #1000Solutions to support the growth of cleantech companies that protect the environment while being profitable. The innovators and entrepreneurs accepted into the1000 Solutions portfolio have developed hundreds of ways to work toward a sustainable economy, including:
- A seaweed-based natural food additive for cows and other farm animals to reduce methane in their gastrointestinal systems
- New clear photovoltaic film-like coverings allow for big energy-efficient windows
- Cement and concrete composites that use up to 80% less water and reduce concrete's carbon footprint up to 70%
- An alternative to plastics made of milk protein
- A smart bin that analyzes a restaurant’s garbage to help chefs reduce food waste and costs
“A circular economy also increases efficiency and reduces waste. Half of our energy, food, and natural resources gets wasted.”
We have the technology now to retrofit old buildings with systems for smart city evolution, and combustion engine vehicles into electric ones, which is much less expensive than building new electric buses, trucks, and cars. All these solutions create sustainable jobs.
In many cases, solar and wind energy are competitive with (or even more profitable than) gas, oil, or coal. Hydrogen systems for energy storage can provide opportunities for oil companies to transition from fossil fuel to more eco-friendly energies. For the most part, we still rely on processes that were discovered in the late 1800s with the advent of oil drilling. This is insane.
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I know we can make this work -- if we think like explorers -- breaking boundaries. I proudly learned about breaking boundaries first from my grandfather, Auguste Piccard, who was first to witness the curvature of Earth after he literally rose to new heights by inventing a pressurized capsule for a balloon. This invention opened the door to modern aviation. My father, Jacques Piccard, made history when he submerged in his bathyscaphe to the ocean floor in the Mariana Trench to find sea life and stop governments who were wanting to dump nuclear waste into the ocean. Following in their footsteps, my flight around the world in a solar-powered plane, flying day and night powered only by the rays of the sun, proved “the impossible” is only in our heads, not our reality. Engineers, manufacturers, and a committed team representing numerous industries came together to think differently, and we were able to find the solutions we needed.
“In many cases, solar and wind energy are competitive with (or even more profitable than) gas, oil, or coal. For the most part, we still rely on processes that were discovered in the late 1800s with the advent of oil drilling. This is insane.”
Now it's time for industry and government leaders to get unstuck from their old and expensive ways of thinking about energy, infrastructure, farming, and mobility; and the ways we waste food, water, and resources daily. My goal is to change the world through the ingenuity, intelligence, innovation, and creativity of humankind. Together, we can get there. And yes, a green economic recovery is within reach, because it is much more profitable, and creates many more jobs than a dirty one.