We all know that global warming is how we refer to the slow increase in temperature of the planet. Although global warming can be a complicated subject, there is one simple and major culprit: carbon dioxide. Many human activities, from construction to product manufacturing, result in a release of carbon dioxide (or CO2) and other gases into the atmosphere. Changing the concentration of gases in the atmosphere is creating a greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is causing the Earth’s surface and ocean temperatures to rise to dangerous levels.
Why Does CO2 Matter?
Rising temperatures are melting the earth’s ice sheets and inadvertently causing natural disasters. The Earth’s ecosystems and atmosphere are very precariously balanced. With every bit of atmospheric warming, the balance is thrown off a little more. It’s like a domino effect. The warming air also increases evaporation, making droughts worse. As drought increases, fires are more likely to start in dry forests and fields. Additionally, water vapor in the atmosphere has increased due to global warming, which means heavier rain and snow.
Finally, the combination of extra warmth and moisture in the atmosphere over the oceans makes hurricanes stronger. Sea levels are rising, rainfall is increasing, flooding is more likely… You get the picture.
To give you an idea of the CO2 issue, in 2019 the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide was at 409.8ppm globally. That’s the highest it has been in the last 800,000 years. Even with ice ages and warm spikes, atmospheric carbon dioxide had not been higher than 300ppm – until now. The most recent time in history when atmospheric CO2 was this high was around 3 million years ago.
At that time, the sea levels were 12 to 25 meters higher than they are today. Most worryingly, if we continue to meet the growing global energy demand with fossil fuels, our atmospheric carbon dioxide could exceed 900ppm by the end of the century.
Although it’s really important for us to shift to using renewable energy and reducing emissions, there are a few reasons why removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere is also crucial. When CO2 is added to the atmosphere, it stays there for centuries. So even if we were to reach zero emissions tomorrow, the extra CO2 we already put in the atmosphere would continue to cause warming and climate change.
The effects of added CO2 also don’t occur instantly, so we haven’t even seen the full effects of all the CO2 currently in the atmosphere. Also, we unfortunately aren’t currently on track to reach zero emission climate goals within the next few decades, and climate change isn’t something we should gamble with. Zero emissions means zero, and reaching that will entail a complete overhaul of pretty much every industry on Earth in record time. We can’t take our chances. Plus, I personally think that using captured carbon in products is a really neat example of circular design!
6 Amazing Product Uses for CO2 Removed From The Atmosphere
Products made from CO2 are actively reversing climate change. They address the problem by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it. Instead of that CO2 hanging out in our atmosphere, it’s now given a second life to do something positive.
1. Air Company: Alcohol
Air Company is making vodka from three ingredients: captured carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight! They’ve created technology that removes atmospheric carbon dioxide by mimicking the way plants take in CO2 via the process of photosynthesis. Air Company’s process is more efficient and faster than photosynthesis. Every liter of alcohol that they produce cleans the equivalent of 8 trees worth of CO2 from the air.
The alcohol they produce can be used to make spirits, sanitizers, fragrances, and even carbon-negative fuel. For now, they sell vodka and sanitizer made from the alcohol, as well as a few trinkets like keychains, t-shirts, and hats.
Their process begins by capturing carbon dioxide with absorption-based technology. They use solar power to turn sunlight into electricity, which powers their conversion system. That system breaks down the CO2 with water and then reforms it to make alcohol. Within that process, they use proprietary catalysts.
The only byproduct of the process is oxygen. The result of the entire process is a net-negative carbon emission – one and a half kilograms of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere per kilogram of alcohol produced.
Check out Air Company
2. Aether: Diamond
Aether makes diamonds that are just as real as mined diamonds – meaning they’re chemically and anatomically the same as naturally occurring diamonds. However, for each 1 carat diamond that Aether produces, 20 tons of CO2 is removed from our atmosphere. That’s enough CO2 to offset one American’s carbon footprint for over a year (1.25 to be exact.) Aether is currently working to become a fully carbon-negative operation by 2023, with the goal of pulling 100 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere within ten years.
On top of all those positives, purchasing an Aether diamond means you avoid the social, ecological, and environmental damage of regular diamonds.
The process of creating an Aether diamond begins with atmospheric collectors pulling air in and capturing the CO2 in a special filter. That CO2 is synthesized into hydrocarbon raw material. The material is then placed into reactors which create the perfect environment for diamond growing – one atom at a time, for about three to four weeks. The raw diamond is then sent to craftspeople to be cut, polished, and set into gold and silver jewelry.
It’s important to note that other lab-grown diamonds aren’t so pure. They use carbon sourced from fossil fuels, using drilling and fracking. Plus, the energy used to make Aether diamonds come from sustainable, clean sources.
Check out Aether
3. Restore Foodware: Straws and Cutlery
Restore Foodware is making straws and cutlery from PHB. PHB is a natural material that microorganisms in the ocean make every day with saltwater and carbon that dissolves into the water. After 10 years of research, Restore has found a way to mimic this process, using those same microorganisms in a saltwater tank to produce AirCarbon – their version of PHB. That product is purified info powder, formed into pellets, and then melted into straws and cutlery.
The energy used for the process is all renewable power. Since it’s made of a naturally occurring material, the straws and forks can biodegrade in the ocean or in compost. They also never get soggy, unlike paper replacements for straws. Most importantly, the products are all carbon-negative since they’re made from the carbon in our atmosphere.
Check out Restore Foodware
4. Clean O2: Soap
Clean O2 was the first company to create a carbon capture unit that could fit into a commercial building. They call that unit the Carbin-X, which can absorb the equivalent of 300 trees. That’s 6 to 8 tons of carbon every year. To do this, the Carbin-X contains a reaction chamber that uses waste flue gas to recover CO2. Then, carbonate is created by combining the gas with a carbon-reduction chemical. The heat created by the machine is then used to heat the water that enters the building’s water tanks, so nothing goes to waste.
With this captured carbon, Clean O2 makes soap. They convert the carbon into Potassium Carbonate (also known as Pearl Ash) – a common, safe chemical that’s found in most soaps. The soaps are locally handmade, biodegradable, and 100% safe.
Check out Clean O2
5. Covalent: Accessories
Covalent produces sunglasses, tote bags, handbags, and wallets made from AirCarbon. That’s the same carbon source as Restore Foodware, but instead channeled into making accessories. They use methane trapped from an abandoned coal mine to create their AirCarbon. While their accessories are carbon-captured products, AirCarbon is not the only material used in the process.
Their products also contain natural rubber and 15% or less synthetic materials. This means that they are not biodegradable. However, they do offer a recycling program, creating a closed loop. Covalent will accept products that have reached the end of their lifestyle and give them a second life.
Check out Covalent
6. The Carbon Marketplace: Carbon Watch
The Carbon Marketplace is an online store where you can purchase products made from CO2. The marketplace is actually from a company called Sky Baron, a collaborative platform for brands creating captured carbon products. You will find that they, too, sell the vodka and soap mentioned above. They also sell a carbon watch which is allowing us to “turn back the clock on climate change,” as they smartly point out.
They’ve used Carbon Upcycling Technologies’ carbon material along with designing and manufacturing from 22 Design Studio to create this watch. In total, it’s made from carbon-infused fly ash, a stainless steel case, high-density concrete, glass, a leather strap, and Miyota movement. The watch itself is made in Taiwan, though the carbon comes from Calgary, Canada.
In addition to the watch, they have a couple of exciting products listed as coming soon. Their carbon pen is made from the same carbon-infused fly ash made in Canada and combined with high-density concrete and stainless steel. The color and shape of the pen actually adapt to your hand as you use it, so it will truly be your pen. Lastly, they will soon offer carbon coaster sets made from carbon-infused fly ash, concrete, and cork.
The ridges in the design of the coasters ensure that your drink stays put without sticking. The coasters are designed in Houston, TX
Check out The Carbon Marketplace
Please note that some of the above links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase.