The quality of the air we breathe affects our health, our behaviors and our bodies — sometimes without us realizing. According to National Geographic, the effects of air pollution can range from annoying to deadly. And in some major cities like Beijing, the smog is as visible to people as a leaf on a tree.
Though the problem can feel insurmountable at times, researchers are actively finding ways to tackle one of Earth’s greatest challenges. Here’s a look at how technological advances are fighting pollution.
Air pollution is a particularly big challenge in China, so it should come as no surprise that the rapidly developing nation is home to some of the most unique solutions. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde created a 23-foot smog-eating tower that purifies the surrounding air. And reports show the tower succeeding in cutting through half of the smog around it within 41 days.
So while government officials work to devise long-term strategies to fight the effects of smog, Roosegaarde created a solution that helps now. Plus, Fortune reports that the inventor is currently working on a bike version of the design, so users can clean up the air as they ride around town.
Most people assume cars and factories are the biggest causes of pollution. But sometimes, the perpetrators are the ones you don’t expect to have an impact — like livestock.
Gases related to factory farming impact the world around us. To address the problem, scientists have found a way to convert polluted air into clean air: They created a biofilter that generates heat, which can be used to keep the animals warm during the winter. Not only does this technology remove harmful irritants in the air, it also reduces the amount of energy needed to house and store the animals safely. Talk about a bird in the hand.
These ideas are still trying to reach the masses, but some solutions for cutting back on pollution are already on the market. Solar panels reduce reliance on fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases into the environment.
Depending on your state, you might qualify for tax credits to install and use solar panels. If the commitment is too much up front, some customers will simply rent their panels until they decide it’s the right choice for them. These panels are an investment, but they’re also a very friendly gesture to the environment.
For transportation, hybrid and electric cars are great for people trying to reduce carbon footprint while zipping along. Many of these cars come with government subsidies, though the savings on gas might be the only incentive you need.
And if these options aren’t your thing, you can make an effort to drive less, use public transportation and ride bikes. Biking is a low-cost, low-tech way to reduce pollution without waiting for huge technological advances. We can analyze emerging tech all day, but sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most effective.