This year has brought the world many new advancements, innovations, and inventions. Here we take a look at 5 inventions in 2023 that are moving the world toward a more sustainable future.

1) Zellerfeld 3D-printed Shoes

Zellerfeld 3D-printed Shoes
Zellerfeld 3D-printed Shoes; Photo: Zellerfeld

These sustainable shoes are fully recyclable, 3D printed, and made entirely of a single material thermoplastic polyurethane. CEO and co-founder of Zellerfeld, the startup company that created them, Cornelius Schmitt has the goal of putting these shoes “on every foot in the world.” The company currently uses 200 3D printers of its own to create custom-fitted shoes based on smartphone scans of the buyer’s feet. And, at the end of their life, these shoes can be sent back to Zellerfield to be turned into new designs.

2) Niron Magnetics Clean Earth Magnet

Niron Magnetics' Clean Earth Magnet™ was named to TIME's Best Inventions of 2023. (Photo: Business Wire)
Niron Magnetics’ Clean Earth Magnet; Photo: Business Wire

Rare-earth magnets are in high demand as they help power EVs and wind turbines, but rare-earth mining can decimate ecosystems. Minnesota-based Niron Magnetics’ Clean Earth Magnet is made from iron and nitrogen. These materials are both abundant and affordable, eliminating the need for rare-earth mining. The magnets are also stronger than their rare-earth counterparts. Automaker Volvo has signed on as a partner and provided funding, while the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Niron $17.5 million to ramp up production.

3) ePlant TreeTag

ePlant TreeTag
ePlant TreeTag; Photo: ePlant

This TreeTag sticks into the trunk of a tree and combines sensors and AI to measure growth, track water and light inputs, monitor carbon caption, and store the data in the cloud. These datasets can be particularly useful after traumatic events such as wildfires, as they can be used to help arborists understand a forest’s needs and help it recover. After the wildfires in Maui in August, staff at ePlant set up 15 of their tree tags on Lahaina region’s largest banyan tree, which had been damaged.

“Trees have their own unique way of communicating, and our sensors are like their translators,” co-founder and CEO Graham Hine says.

4) Brimstone Carbon-negative Cement

A mortar cube composed of cement made through Brimstone’s process. (Jose Romero:Brimstone)
A mortar cube composed of cement made through Brimstone’s process; Photo: Jose Romero/Brimstone

The cement industry generates three times more carbon emissions than the aviation industry, the bulk of which comes from limestone as it releases CO2 when processed. Manufacturer Brimstone swapped limestone for calcium silicate rock. This is not only far more abundant, but it produces a byproduct that absorbs CO2 which makes the company’s cement effectively carbon negative. Additionally, in July 2023, Brimstone became the first in the industry to receive third-party certification that its product is as strong as standard cement.

5) Laura Maersk

Laura Maersk used green methanol for its maiden voyage, pictured arriving into Copenhagen (source: Maersk)
Laura Maersk used green methanol for its maiden voyage, pictured arriving in Copenhagen; Photo: Maersk

The shipping industry emits one billion tons of CO2 annually, which is over 2% of the world’s total. To combat the problem, the Laura Maersk was commissioned by Denmark’s Maersk, and manufactured by South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard. This is the first container ship powered by green methanol (a low-carbon fuel) and it made its maiden voyage in September. Maersk has 24 additional container ships on order and the shipping industry has ordered another 100, including green methanol-powered ferries and cruise ships.