15 for '15: The surprising breakthroughs of 2015
Tesla's Powerwall comes to the forefront as sustainability thought leaders reveal their picks.
2015 has been a year full of surprises. Fresh off the landmark climate deal among 195 nations at the U.N.’s COP21 talks earlier this month, it’s easy to overlook other big, surprising sustainability developments this year — from the emergence of successful collaborative models to the popularity of Tesla’s Powerwall.
But what do some of the country’s brightest minds and influencers think?
This is the first in what has become our annual three-part year-end VERGE series — featuring the perspectives of a handful of thought leaders and doers spanning a wide range of industries — many of whom have been our most interesting speakers from past VERGE events.
Here are 15 perspectives answering our first question in the series: "What sustainability technology or development surprised you most in 2015?"
Stay tuned for their 2016 visions and even more provocative 2030 predictions to come. (The following has been edited for clarity and length.)
Resource sharing successes
Robin Chase — co-founder, Veniam, Zipcar
Peter Gleick — president and co-founder, Pacific Institute
The growing success and utility of information and communications technologies that permit more effective use and sharing of resources, such as Uber/Lyft for transportation, small-scale solar for energy, along with the growing evidence that new technologies may fundamentally transform (in the long run) personal transportation and energy needs and preferences.
Data as equalizer
Nicole Ferrini — chief resilience officer, city of El Paso
Antwi Akom — founder, ISEEED/Streetwize
Kate Brandt — lead for sustainability, Google
Danny Kennedy — managing director, California Clean Energy Fund
Ev Williams — co-founder, Twitter, Obvious Ventures, Medium
Andrew Liu — VP of new ventures, AECOM
Stefan Heck — CEO, Nauto
Lindsay Baker — president and co-founder, Building Robotics
Best of the rest
Cady Coleman — astronaut, NASA
Andrew Beebe — managing director, Obvious Ventures
The proliferation of EV options — I’m very, very impressed with how many models might actually get launched in a viable way in the 2017-2018 timeframe by global automotive leaders (with the tragic exception of Toyota, which apparently can’t let go of the hydrogen car. Whoops).
Frank Pennisi — VP and general manager, Honeywell Connected Buildings
migration of computing power from building systems to smart edge devices and to the cloud. The shift of computing power to cloud-connected edge devices is making it easier to quickly innovate in the smart building space and bring new smart devices to market, which is opening up a new realm of possibilities when it comes to sustainability.
Adam Lowry — co-founder and chief greenskeeper, Method
The rapid adoption of urban agriculture of all kinds — 2015 saw more and more food products hitting store shelves and supermarkets that were made in urban areas. What’s more, these products are high quality, nutritionally dense and delicious.
Stephen Ritz — founder, Green Bronx Machine