What’s your favorite watering hole or coffee shop? If you answer “The dumpster down the street,” then (hopefully) you’re familiar with the FOUNDation Project, a creation of Dutch designers Rikkert Paauw and Jet van Zwieten.
Didn’t know it was National Pollinator Week? That’s OK: we’ve got you covered with ideas and products suggestions for keeping bees, bird, butterflies and bats protected, happy, and pollinating.
Article: Rio+20: the Earth Summit that wasn't
Did you know that there was a big meeting of world leaders and environmental organizations last week in Brazil? It’s OK if you didn’t: judging from the outcomes, neither did most of the participants. Billed as “Rio+20,” a recognition of the monumental Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, this meeting could only come up with a reaffirmation of the goals set at the earlier event. That’s right: three days of meetings involving 100 world leaders and 50,000 participants total could only say “Yes to what we said twenty years ago.”
Article: EMPOWERED: No power plant required!
Sure, you’d love to power at least part of your home on renewable energy, but the local infrastructure isn’t there yet: no nearby wind farm, no solar or geothermal installers. And, besides, it really isn’t that windy where you live.
That’s the kind of mindset that fossil fuels have given us: we really can’t go out and drill our own oil and gas, or mine our own coal, so we’ve assumed largely that energy is something that others have to provide for us. But part of the beauty of renewables is their availability: we all get some sun, wind, or geothermal heat, and with a little elbow grease, we can harvest that energy – no power company or massive centralized plant needed.
What do you do with stuff when its reached the end of its useful life? Usually we trash it, but there’s probably still some kind of use left in it. From take-out containers to phone booths, here are some product ideas that make use of that “garbage.”
Article: Sun Boxes: the sound of sunlight
Sound is an intrinsic part of an environment, even if we often don’t notice it. The cars and chatter of the city, the layering of those sounds with birds chirping and trees rustling in an urban park, or the absolute silence in a winter wilderness, make these places what they are as much as other physical features. Craig Colorusso’s mobile Sun Boxes sound installation makes use mindful of that play between the physical and the aural while respecting the environment itself.
Ever felt the urge to escape? Quit the job, sell the house, and head into the wild to live off of the land? Of course you have: most of us have fantasized about giving civilization the kiss-off, and living in a much more self-sufficient, sustainable manner. For most of us, though, that’s as far as we get.
Not a techie, but still want to find out the latest on the green products front? No problem: we’ve expanded our weekly green tech finds into a broader array of products with a light footprint. This week: turn off the lights from work, and buy a bamboo toothbrush for yourself and someone else.
Article: MIDWAY: Where your plastic ends up
If you stayed awake in high school history class, you may remember that the Midway Atoll was a site of perhaps the most important battle in the Pacific during World War II. But if you had to provide any other information about Midway, you’d probably need to do a quick Wikipedia search (I know I did – and I loved high school history). The island group’s central location in the Pacific Ocean means that it’s also in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and, thus, a great place to take a look at the costs of our wasteful ways.
Article: Would you wear leather from a lab?
Leather’s a challenge for a good greenie. It comes from dead animals, and involves really toxic processing. On the flip side, though, it just looks really cool; no existing alternative can match it on that front. A non-toxic, cruelty-free alternative that really looked like leather would probably fly off of the shelves.
From cool iPhone covers made from old skateboards to silicon chips that can turn your shoes into phone chargers, there’s a lot of phone-related green tech out there this week.
Article: Sailing the chocolate seas
Ever think about giving up chocolate for the good of the planet? Nah, me neither – some sacrifices are too great! Despite having such a captive market, though, chocolate makers from the corporate giants to small-scale artisan operations have looked for ways to reduce their environmental and social impact. Organic cocoa beans and Fair Trade farming operations have become standard on this front, but two chocolatiers, one American, one British, have gone to an extreme to cut their footprints: they’re having either supplies or product delivered by sailing ships.
One of the most memorable sections of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point covers New York City’s reduction of violent crime by addressing petty offenses. Painting over graffiti immediately, cracking down on turnstile jumping, and beautifying run-down neighborhoods treated crime like an infection: focus on the conditions that caused an infection to take root initially, and, often, you don’t have to deal with any full-blown manifestations.
Keep killing your houseplants because you forget to water? Or wasting gas because you never remember to check your tire pressure. We’ve got solutions for both, and more, in this week’s green tech finds.
Forget to water your plants?: Yep, there’s now an app for that. The Koubachi Wifi Plant Sensor tells an app on your phone when your houseplants need some water.
Article: Growing your own vs City Hall
Remember the story from last year about a Michigan woman who was actually facing jail time for turning her front yard into a food garden? Or the Los Angeles man who had a legal tussle with city government over growing food in the parkway in front of his home? Those cases have been settled, but new ones continue to pop up as individuals decide that they want to get rid of their front lawns, and replace them with gardens.
After reading a short description of indie documentary THE GARDEN SUMMER – five young suburbanites move to a farm to live sustainably off of the land – you may well jump to the characterization of “The Real World Goes to Arkansas,” or “The Simple Life Sans Celebs.” It certainly sounds like a set up for your typical youth-focused reality series, doesn’t it?
What do scooters, bike helmets, and building retrofits have in common? None of them are particularly cool, but they’re all here in this week’s green tech finds.
On Friday, the new horror flick CHERNOBYL DIARIES will no doubt have folks all over the country screaming and holding their hands over their eyes. Those of us old enough to remember the actual Chernobyl disaster, in which a nuclear reactor northeast of Kiev, Ukraine exploded, might take some comfort in this: the world’s worst nuclear disaster is far enough in the past that we can make scary movies about it. The nuclear industry might even embrace the film, as it allows them to figuratively pat us all on the head and remind us that radiation doesn’t really turn people into zombies.
Got a tattoo of your favorite endangered species? If you’re my age, you’ll probably answer “No” with an annoyed look. However, if you’re a twentysomething, I may have you thinking “Heyyy – that’s a great idea!” Generation Y is into its tatts, as well as making the world a better place. If someone figured out a way to bring those two things together, they’d likely have plenty of people willing to pitch in.
If you can power your phone with sunlight, and carry water purification equipment on your back, is there any need for large-scale, dirty utilities in the developing world? Those ideas and more in this week’s green tech finds.
What’s your neighborhood’s Bike Score?: The five-year-old Walk Score online service, which rates walkability of neighborhoods, cities, and addresses, now offers a similar metric for bicyclists. The new Bike Score is available in ten cities (and, apparently, Minneapolis is more bike-friendly than Portland – who’da thunk it?). (via The Atlantic Cities)
Article: Bicycling: a love story?
Most of us don’t give a lot of thought to the bicycle as an object of beauty: it’s purely functional, designed to get us from here to there. Any elements of design likely came from the marketing department. Describing it as “poetry in motion” seems, at best, clichè.
Texas playwright Tammy Melody Gomez dared to go there, though, expressing her love for her bicycle (her sole means of transportation) not merely in a few words, but in a full-length work of art. Her play
Photographer and film maker Kate Schermerhorn seems obsessed with the notion of happiness: in addition to her previous documentary AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER (which, as you’ll probably guess, focused on marriage), she’s also the author of the photography book America’s Idea of a Good Time (which explores our “pursuit of happiness” broadly). If you’re going to dig into such a topic, and particularly its most American incarnations, you’re going to end up at the mall: we love acquiring stuff so much that we now refer to shopping as “retail therapy.” But how happy do the things we buy make us, and what are the larger costs associated with those moments of pleasure?
Planning to do some biking and walking in London, and want to get rewarded? Or spending time in Cambodia, and want to report illegal wildlife sales? We’ve got apps for that.
Got a savings account for the kids’ education, a future luxury purchase, or just a nest egg? I don’t need to tell you that you’re not getting rich from this kind of investment: it’s really safe, but the cost of that safety is a really paltry rate of return. But, what are you going to do: investments that pay better involve higher levels of risk, and if we could afford to lose money, we wouldn’t be putting it in a savings account in the first place, right?