Today’s Solutions: March 29, 2023

The vast majority of products that move globally, from jeans to bananas to cars, travel on cargo ships that generate around 3 percent of global emissions (for context, aviation generates 2 percent). And while shipping companies such as Maersk are investing heavily in new technologies to reduce emissions that come with shipping, some smaller companies are reverting to more traditional means to get goods from point A to point B. What we mean to say is that the sailing ship—with mast and all—is coming back into style.

In early July, cosmetics company Lush actually received a shipment that arrived on a sailing ship, which traveled from Portugal to Poole, a small town on the southeastern coast of England. By harnessing the power of the wind rather than relying on a motor, the sailing ship produces virtually no emissions.

Of course, the sailing ship is much slower than its modern competitors. That same trip from Portugal to England would have taken a truck five days, whereas the sailing ship took four weeks—albeit with a few stops along the way in France and Belgium. Sailing ships are also said to be more expensive to operate. While these obstacles will make it nearly impossible for sailing ships to become the norm once more in the shipping industry, the idea behind them could become popular in the coming years.

Neoline, a company based in France, is preparing to build ships that are 136 meters long—longer than a football field—that have massive sails and can transport 500 cars. By combining efficient motors with huge sails, the shipping industry could soon be full of ships that combine the best of both worlds.

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