In many cases, technology projects may conflict with environmental interests. Technology can create a lot of waste in device manufacturing and energy use, and the increasing pace of innovation can only exacerbate these environmental problems. But there are a number of areas where this problem is seen as an opportunity, and technology is being used in the fight to protect the environment. Here are 5 examples of how technology is being used to great effect.

Connected lighting and heating

Technology is moving towards a state where all of our devices are connected, creating Internet of Things . We are currently on the first wave of these devices to reach the mainstream and the trend looks set to continue. In this first wave, there are a number of devices that allow for greater control over the physical environment. For example, smart thermostat Nest redefined the challenge of heating and cooling a home, providing web-based control and automated optimization to reduce energy consumption.

A number of startups have launched connected lighting fixtures using LED technology in an incandescent form factor with wireless connectivity. These lights can be controlled via a mobile app, allowing users to reduce energy consumption by ensuring the lights turn off even after leaving the house.

Electric vehicles

In recent years, electric vehicles have become a mainstream concept driven by the popularity of the Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle. Public demand for more electric vehicle options has spurred a number of small, innovative startups into the automotive fight despite huge capital and regulatory barriers to entry.

The electric vehicle is connected.
David Aaron Troy/Getty Images

The most eye-catching of these companies is Tesla, founded by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. But Tesla isn’t the only startup in the mix, as Southern California-based Fisker has achieved early success with the launch of its plug-in hybrid sedan, the Karma.

Server Technology

For many tech giants, one of the biggest costs is maintaining data centers. For a company like Google organizing the world’s information is costly to operate the largest and most complex data centers in the world. Energy use is one of their biggest operating expenses for many of these companies. This creates a balance of environmental and business interests for companies like Google, which are finding innovative ways to reduce energy consumption.

Google is incredibly proactive in building efficient data centers while maintaining tight control over all of their operations. In fact, this is perhaps one of the main areas of activity for Google. They design and build their own facilities and recycle all the equipment that leaves their data centers. The battle between the tech giants Google, Apple and Amazon is, on some level, a battle over data centers. All these companies strive to create effective data centers that will house the world’s information with minimal financial and environmental impact.

Energy alternative

In addition to innovation in data center design and construction, many large technology companies are implementing alternative energy applications, which is another way to maximize the efficiency of their large energy consumption. Both Google and Apple have opened data centers that are fully or partially powered by alternative energy. Google has created a completely wind-powered data center, and Apple recently filed for patents on a patented wind turbine technology . This shows how central energy efficiency is in line with the goals of these technology firms.

Device recycling

Mobile devices and electronics are rarely produced in an environmentally friendly way; their manufacturing processes often include harmful chemicals and rare metals. With the growth in the production of mobile phones, this creates even more problems for the environment. Fortunately, this increased pace has made device recycling a more profitable venture, and we are now seeing significant enterprise support for startups looking to buy back or recycle old devices, thus closing the cycle for many environmental wastes.

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