China’s urban population is growing, and with it, rising levels of pollution have become a cause for concern.
But the country’s recent efforts to shift to a more sustainable model of city living are promising. In fact, China recently rolled out the world’s largest investment in clean energy to date. The nation has also committed to both manufacturing and adopting renewable energy technologies: According to Greenpeace, China installs an entire soccer field’s worth of solar panels and erects a new wind turbine almost every hour. In addition, the Chinese government has declared the intention to ban all fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the future.
“China is already the largest construction market globally. One in two buildings being constructed annually is being constructed in China,” says Tan Min Lan, Head of Chief Investment Office APAC at UBS Wealth Management. “Unfortunately, China is also the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. To address these challenges, the Chinese government has zeroed in on green buildings. It has actually mandated a very ambitious plan to have 50% of new buildings being certified sustainable by the year 2020.”
There are a number of private companies, too, contributing to China’s sustainability revolution. Below are a few worth knowing about.
Traditional HVAC systems like air con and heating produce harmful carbon emissions and may potentially contribute to climate change.
As an alternative to traditional models, Broad Group produces clean air-conditioning systems and other sustainability-oriented products to enhance building efficiency. The company uses a patented, non-electric air chiller in its air conditioning design. Instead of using Freon (the traditionally used chiller), the system taps into natural gas to produce a solution that ultimately cools the air. The design is widely regarded as a milestone for energy efficiency; today, Broad has customers in 80 countries worldwide.
“Humanity can find a real approach to sustainable development for higher life quality and lower impact on the environment,” Zhang Yue, Broad chairman and CEO, said in a statement to Mashable.
In 2011, the UN awarded Yue the “Champions of the Earth” prize for his accomplishments in the green energy space.
One of the most important catalysts for bringing lasting sustainable change to China’s masses is educating the public about issues like resource scarcity.
Thirst is at the forefront of such educational efforts. The organization, founded by social entrepreneur Mina Guli, fosters a community of “water ambassadors” to teach the world’s youth how to become responsible consumers. The organization raises global awareness through educational programming, innovation competitions, and event stunts such as running 40 marathons across seven deserts in seven weeks.
“I always thought that turning off the tap when brushing my teeth or taking a shorter shower made a positive impact on the water crisis. What I had not realized was that those daily actions only contributed 5% of my daily water consumption. The other 95% come from things we consume,” Guli explains.
To date, Thirst has educated students all over the world — including more than 600,000 young people in more than 400 schools in China — about water scarcity, conservation, and best practices for preserving our planet’s most precious resource.
“We need to help people understand that for every purchase they make, water is used,” Guli says. “And we need to encourage them to make a difference by changing their consumption patterns or by rewarding companies that adapt their production lines.”
One interesting urban concept is the Liuzhou Forest City: The “living” buildings are infused with plant life intended to “eat” smog and cut down on pollution.
The futuristic city will host around 30,000 people, as well as nearly a million “green” citizens, including more than 100 species of plants and around 40,000 trees. Designers and researchers predict that the city will absorb nearly 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide as well as 57 tons of pollutants, ultimately pumping more than 900 tons of oxygen into the atmosphere. The hope is that Forest City, which is designed to be fueled entirely via renewable energy sources, will serve as a model for sustainable urban ecosystems around the globe.
Construction for the project officially began in 2017, and the goal for completion is sometime in 2020.
Wind power continues to gain traction in the renewable energy market, particularly in China. Goldwind Global, founded in Urumqi nearly two decades ago, is one of the world’s leading wind power companies and the largest organization in its industry in China. Operating on six continents, Goldwind is one of the biggest wind turbine manufactures in the world — and the organization has considerable goals for the future of sustainable energy.
Today, Goldwind is focused on pioneering new trends in the energy industry, turning its attention to the use of smart grids and big data to optimize existing technologies and improving its designs through constant iteration.
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