Closing out last year with the environment at the forefront of more conversations than ever before, the future is ripe for green innovations. These 2022 sustainability trends are poised to shift how we live, eat, and shop.
While eco-conscious businesses and consumers used to be a smaller minority, the past few years have skyrocketed sustainable living into the mainstream. Now, more than 50% of people are focused on being more environmentally friendly in their daily lives. With the majority on board, we can expect to see bigger changes than ever before in the coming year. More than simply protecting and preserving, the top sustainability trends in 2022 are focused on actively creating a healthier environment as each day passes.
Sustainability Trends 2022: Five Areas to Watch
This is Beyond Recycling: Regeneration is the Future
It’s no secret that our current economy has a waste problem. In the United States alone, nearly 300 million tons of trash are created every year. In the past, recycling was often seen as “good enough.” But with trash piling up (and very little of it actually being recycled), the future is looking beyond creating products that “can be” recycled. In 2022, products that create new life from old waste, or better yet, use natural, renewable resources, will take center stage. With a focus on ending our waste problem rather than adding to it, businesses around the world will see a shift towards a circular way of thinking. In fact, the shift can already be seen. A london-based company is using renewable algae to replace toxic black T-shirt dyes. And the result is a biodegradable shirt that removes carbon from the atmosphere during its life cycle.
Protecting Big Blue: Ocean Rewilding
In 2022, ocean conservation will move beyond beach clean-up days. Scientists have been documenting the loss of underwater ecosystems for decades, and new innovations will aim to “rewild” these places. With many countries joining the pledge to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, more Marine Protected Areas can be expected in the coming years. Once protected, efforts will be made to bring back plant and animal life that has been lost. And the benefits could be giant. Research shows that seagrass is able to sequester carbon 35% faster than trees. To reach these goals, innovative technologies are paving the way for a comeback from delicate species. New 3-D printed coral tiles offer a promising future for coral reef regrowth. And organizations like Greenwave are bringing regenerative ocean farming practices to sea. Sustainable ocean farming works to re-invigorate the ecosystem while creating a nearly zero-waste food source for humans. At the same time, the future of plant-based food is also rooted in the sea. Startup New Wave Foods is crafting vegan seafood from algae. If these trends gain traction in 2022, the future of the ocean could look blue once more.
Green Money: Sustainable Investing and Banking
As younger, eco-conscious generations begin investing their money, a major 2022 sustainability trend looks towards a greener future for banking. While many large banks have ties to the fossil fuel industry, up and coming alternatives like Aspiration are encouraging consumers to pay attention to how their money is being used. And when it comes to investing, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing strategies are gaining popularity. ESG investing grew by 42% in 2020, making it clear that people are not just interested in growing their money, but what that growth will fund. Currently, over half of all investing firms state that sustainability is central to their strategy. In 2022, it appears like that number will only grow.
Eco-Cities: Localized Farms and Low-Waste Buildings
Over half of the population now lives in an urban environment. As cities continue to grow, designing sustainably is more important than ever. Luckily, new technologies are ushering in a wave of eco-cities, focused on increasing greenery, boosting bike transportation, and more. One sustainability trend to keep an eye on is the creation of local food systems in urban places. It might sound far-fetched, but this trend is already a reality. In Germany, one of the largest grocery chains has created a market that grows fresh produce on the rooftop above where it’s sold. And a new development in California will create affordable housing that sits farmside– in the heart of Silicon Valley.
When it comes to the buildings themselves, low-waste materials and building processes are at the forefront of green construction. A UK company has created paint that both reduces the release of carbon dioxide and helps sequester it with the use of recycled concrete. While these developments have yet to hit the mainstream, it’s expected that their use will become more widespread in the near future.
Consumer Power: Creating Change and Re-defining Luxury
Thanks to a rise in interest in sustainable products, eco-friendly items are getting more shelf space than ever before. And, because the research shows that people are willing to pay more for responsibly made products, businesses are shifting to meet the demand at record speed. In 2022, sustainability trends that help consumers shop consciously, like the Good On You app and Hive Marketplace, will be here to stay. Consumers are more willing to research businesses before making decisions, which means that certifications like B Corp and 1% for the Planet will continue to be important indicators of a brand's values.
And when it comes to status, 2022 sustainability trends are reshaping what luxury means. Growing understanding of the damage of fast fashion has caused even the most high-end retailers to turn over a new leaf. As slow fashion becomes more popular than quick trends, made-to-last products are the new status symbol. One luxury bag company is now offering lifetime repairs on their products. And the process of “upcycling” (creating new items from old materials) is set to hit runways and retail stores in 2022.
While it can be easy to focus on the challenges to the environmental movement, the future of sustainability looks promising for 2022. And for sustainable trends to gain true momentum, small actions are key! Here are a few more suggestions for everyday sustainable choices.
Ready to join the movement towards a more sustainable year ahead? Start with these small changes.