Why We Need to Chisel Away at Our Relationship with Concrete

Why We Need to Chisel Away at Our Relationship with Concrete

One of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions polluting the earth isn’t waste related, car emissions, or the destruction of nature, it’s concrete production. That’s the world’s best kept secret revealed as early as to when Charles Dickens described the “the sluggish stifling smell” of the kilns in Great Expectations. And it cements (pun intended) the fact that daily production of concrete follows the US and China as the third top producer of greenhouse gases. And that’s pretty monumental, considering that major cities around the world are called, “concrete jungles.”

Concrete-Reliant World

Anywhere you read about how concrete is bad for the planet, you’ll probably get hit with a wall of historical information going all the way back to the Roman Times describing the centuries-long relationship humans have had with concrete and development. And although it is known that concrete is not eco-friendly, it still contributes about 2.8 billion tons of carbon emissions every year. Still, we see our ever-populous world building skyscraper after skyscraper, neighborhood after neighborhood, and streets connecting all of it together.

This isn’t a call to do away with concrete all together as reliant as the world is on it, but a message that we have the means to make better and more eco-friendly alternatives to concrete and its production. And with all of the technological advances since the time of Charles Dickens, it’s time to focus on ways to put a dent in what seems to be an unmovable wall.

Why Concrete Is Bad for the Planet

The chemical method that produces the grey ash to be made into cement generates carbon dioxide as a byproduct. And since the world makes a lot of concrete every day, the gaseous fumes slowly poison the atmosphere and the environment. But it’s not just the resulting byproduct that is bad for the planet, but heating the kilns involves burning huge amounts of fossil fuels – a limited, non-renewable energy source that also emit greenhouse gases.

Finding Eco-Friendly Concrete Alternatives

Emerging companies like CarbonCure headed by engineer, Robert Niven, founded in 2007 set the goal to develop a system that would replace the cement, which is the ingredient that forms concrete, with carbon dioxide to reduce emissions as well as carbon dioxide saving the planet and some money. The company has refined its process of injecting liquified CO2 into wet concrete during mixing so a chemical reaction creates calcium carbonate, which binds the rest of the ingredients together.

From this, CarbonCure has produced a system where a tank of carbon dioxide is connected to a mini-fridge sized box designed to have the CO2 flow through a hose into the mix. And getting customers won’t be difficult since this all this process requires is a simple-to-use box – a valuable selling point for an industry that doesn’t always welcome change. However, ventures like CarbonCure are still in their infancy but have generated large investments from global tech giants.

Solidarity with the Earth

With precious time ticking by until it really is too late to undo the damage from greenhouse emissions, it’s time for a cemented break with concrete.

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