I often talk to my students and people in workshops about Ancient Technology. What the term means refers to is old ways of doing things that are simple and forgo electronics. The most important part though is that they strip down systems instead of adding onto existing systems.
An example of an ancient technology might be using steamed banana leaves for food service, or non-vitrified clay in drink ware that gets smashed and reformed. Both are sterile, both from the about of heat used to prepare them for use. The banana leaf is biodegradable entirely and the cup is truly recycled (as opposed to downcycled, though I guess you might be loose some clay in the process, but It’s just clay)
Ancient technologies are my favorites because they were created out of necessity out of what was available and they’re simple.
A lot of our green technologies are now systems layered on other systems. Or, the incorporation of one technology into an existing one to make it greener. But, this doesn’t work as well as not making the first one benign in the first place.
I’ll use Hybrid cars as an example.
By adding a battery into the power train of the car you do decrease emissions significantly. However, battery technology doesn’t last as long as internal combustion technology alone, so the life cycle of the car for the user is less. They would need more cars in the same period of time.
Also, the newness of the technology then asks people to buy new cars. If they already have a working vehicle and it continues to have a life with another user as a used car, you’ve not decreased the number of cars on the road creating emissions necessarily, you’ve added a car that isn’t as bad as another.
Finally there is also issue of destruction at the end of the car’s life. New systems of disposing the hybrid batteries, or at least expansion of existing systems of disposal make are need to accommodate this new technology.
And as it continues to evolve, like it will with plug in hybrids, more systems will be created to deal with the effects of changing existing technology.
On the other hand, another approach to curbing emissions is building infrastructure that doesn’t require a car in the first place. Building an urban environment that is geared towards pedestrians and then added mass transit systems for longer distances that alleviate the need to have a dedicate personal car.
While these infrastructural changes might not be ancient, they do predate cars and thus would predate the issues of cars in their impact.
As an example of what happens when you unnecessarily add technology onto another, I offer you the Teadmill Bike. It is a bike that instead of pedaling, you walk on a treadmill.
While the intention is to give you a treadmill gym experience outside, it disregards the point of a treadmill. If you’re on a treadmill you don’t want to walk anywhere, you want to stay put in your gym.
The better alternative? Walking… or just biking.
I personally hope this was a joke.