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Sustainability and Technology: The Inevitable Future

When you think of the word ‘sustainable,’ what pops into your mind? Maybe you think of solar panels, reusable grocery bags, and the word ‘green’ plastered everywhere.

Let’s take a moment to realize the entire system we call home runs on the assumption that the resources we consume are infinite.

Let’s face it: the idea of knowing how and when technology will evolve is unknown. This makes working in this field equally terrifying and exciting. With constant change comes the urge to do better; to improve and to seek the next big thing. Perhaps it’s a major technological advancement or a simple mobile application used to make a task easier and efficient.

So: how do we, as a society, utilize technology to harness and ultimately sustain what we hold so dear in an environmentally-friendly manner?

Binge-Watching the Future?

The other night while I was binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale, a commercial for Microsoft appeared. The commercial described Microsoft’s use of artificial intelligence to predict harvest patterns.

When the commercial was over, I returned to the show, where I was re-immersed into a dystopian future where a lack of care for the planet created a rather oppressive society. I couldn’t help but think: this was potentially our future. If we don’t take the opportunity now to use technology for good, are we headed for a regressive society and resource rationing?

I decided to investigate Microsoft’s efforts further. What initiatives exist to make technology more sustainable? Can they show us a more hopeful glimpse into our future?

Microsoft, I discovered, presents intriguing insight in the field of sustainable technology. While the company is not specifically known for sustainable efforts, they do present some insightful examples of how large technology companies assist in the effort of sustainable technology.

Energy

In India, 240 million people do not have access to electricity. Microsoft hopes to change that.

Microsoft has made it a priority to acquire renewable energy resources. In 2018, the company announced its first clean energy project for their data centers in both Singapore and India.

The company decided to strictly purchase clean energy to provide reliable power to every resident. This effort also helps reduce the emitted carbon emissions, targeting the objectives of the Paris Accord.

While Microsoft is not the producer of the renewable energy, making strides toward supporting sustainable efforts show the effort one large corporation makes to foster growth in the green field.

Wind

Microsoft launched a renewable wind energy effort in 2013 with its purchase of the Keechi wind farm outside of Dallas, Texas. Currently, 17% of the U.S.’s energy needs are met by renewable sources, with hopes this will expand to 80% by 2050.

Their wind and solar purchases are located all over the world in order to meet the company’s expectations of having 60 percent of energy being renewable by 2020.  Already ahead of this standard, they hope to exceed the 60 percent target. Microsoft understands the growing need for renewable and sustainable markets, crafting energy storage batteries and grid-integrated batteries.

By setting company standards, a company that feeds off of high quantities of energy, Microsoft is a leading example of finding alternatives for energy needs.

Water

The World Health Organization predicts that by 2025, nearly half of the world’s population will have trouble obtaining clean, accessible water. Yes, half. And when we stop to think about the timeliness of the issue, there’s no time to waste.

So how is Microsoft helping to combat this issue?

In 2017, they announced their Silicon Valley campus would use 100% rainfall or on-site recycled water for non-drinking purposes. They also crafted a Water Risk Monetizer, tracking the precise cost of the expense of each water drop.

Microsoft joined the UN CEO Water Mandate, an international organization to help corporations and NGOs to develop and implement updated and sustainable water stewardship practices.

While the efforts to help sustain water availability show prominence, the company has room to improve. In fact, most organizations do. Why stop at water? Combat all types of waste to take the sustainable effort one step further. For example, how can other kinds of waste be converted into energy? Companies have more opportunities to innovate.

Wildlife

Artificial intelligence continues to fascinate industries in all sectors. But Microsoft decided using image-identification systems could help fight the extinction of certain species.

With the lack of representation for wildlife initiatives in the digital space, Wild Me developed. The non- profit organization is described as “an organization that develops the data management platform and framework for wildlife research and conservation.”

By creating a database, more animals are being tracked and preserved. Utilizing Azure, a cloud-based Microsoft storage product, Wild Me is able to use the scalability and AI features to allow the platform to expand outside of typical  offerings. Using technology for good, Microsoft understands the importance of aligning its interests in lasting impact.

Sustaining the Effort

This is just one organization working toward a more sustainable business. By being more sustainable, they will be able to create products for generations.

As a consumer, you can be more cautious when deciding the little things. Your choice impact the world at large. We can make a massive impact, one person at a time. You have the power to:

  • Research the missions of companies
  • Support organizations that support the environment 
  • Make a change

All of us – businesses and individuals – have to recognize the inevitable future: the future is sustainable or non-existent.

And how about you? Do you know of any companies and organizations that utilize sustainable efforts? How can organizations better themselves through sustainable efforts?

We would love to hear! Feel free to comment below.

Jessica Zuk

Jessica Zuk

Jessica Zuk is a current sophomore public relations and information management and technology major with a minor in English textual studies. She is from Asheville, North Carolina, and has always loved writing. She blogged during her high school years, continues to write in college, and works for the hip hop radio station on campus. She serves as the student editor for InfoSpace.

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