When it comes to housing, phrases like “prefab,” “modular” or “factory-made” still bring up certain images for me: either a mobile home/trailer or a boxy, uninspired dwelling made from cheap materials. That’s on me, though, as, over the past decade or so, designers have recognized the potential of this concept and started creating unique, beautiful, stylish homes. What’s more, they’ve built upon prefabrication’s lower environmental footprint by adding materials and features that use resources more efficiently and maintain a healthy indoor environment.
Empty bottles — what do you do with them? For most of us, the answer is “throw them in the recycling bin.” Others look at those bottles, made of either plastic or glass, and see serving trays, jeans or water heaters. See the many things you can do with a used bottle in this week’s Greener Consumption.
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.
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)
Thinking about gardening this weekend for Earth Day? Or disposing of that old computer responsibly? We’ve got information you’ll want as you celebrate the planet this week.
Need to relocate your garden into a sunny spot?: Or have an older relative who loves to garden, but has trouble bending over to dig in the dirt? The Garden on Wheels (above) works in both of these situations – it’s also a great solution for the urbanite with limited gardening space. (via Treehugger)
One of the many symbols of 80s excess, the DeLorean’s back – as an electric vehicle. That, plus recycled jeans and the real cost to drive a Chevy Volt – your green tech finds for the week.
Is there anything you can’t do with industrial hemp? Turn its fiber into paper or cloth? Yep. Eat its oil or seeds? You can do that, too. Smoke it? Well, you can, but you won’t get the desired effect: industrial hemp has only trace amounts of THC (the active ingredient in hemp’s cousin, marijuana). One thing you definitely can’t do: grow it in the United States. Despite the multiple potential uses (almost all of which create a much smaller environmental footprint than conventional materials), it’s still illegal to farm industrial hemp here.
Heard that the light bulb that won $10 million from the government will still cost you $50? Wonder if the UK’s watering ban will really make a difference in terms of water savings? Read on: we’ve got the facts on these questions and more in this week’s green tech finds.
If they’re in the wild, you can count them with a drone. If they’re in a zoo, you can give ‘em an iPad. Monkey business and more in this week’s green tech finds.
Wash your own diapers and grow your own soap: Cloth diapers have big environmental advantages, but they also require a lot more effort than disposables. The Swish is a diaper washing system that not only runs on solar power, but also uses greywater to grow soapnuts. (via Earthtechling and @crispgreen)
Want to charge your e-bike with solar power? Find an iPod speaker as cool as the iBamboo that doesn’t break? Laugh at Donald Trump some more? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
Can you recycle Mardi Gras beads? If you celebrated the lead-up to Lent this week, you may have a ton of plastic beads on hand. While they generally can’t go in the recycling bin, a number of organizations in New Orleans are figuring out “catch and release” schemes for reusing these party favors. (via Earth 911 and @Bennuworld)
Neighborhood gas and service stations are largely a thing of the past: the large-scale convenience store located on main drags or interstate off-ramps seems to have replaced them. Just because the businesses are gone doesn’t mean the buildings are, though, and many of these older structures have unique architectural and design features. Might make for a good business location with some renovation, but a home? It would take an artist’s eye to transform such a structure into a place someone wanted to live.
Can good design save the world? Well, maybe the Great Lakes, anyway. That, plus community-based solar, clothing recycling, and more: your green tech finds for the week.
The DIY bike seat: Ever wanted a second seat on your bicycle, without investing in a tandem? Or just carrying space without a trailer? Israeli designer Yael Livneh has you covered with his concept made from a used plastic milk crate. He’s entered the concept in Designboom’s Seoul Cycle Design competition. (via Unconsumption and @dothegreenthing)
Occupy the sun: We generally think of solar power as something that individual home and building owners do, but Francesca Rheannon at CSRWire takes a look at community-based efforts to adopt solar technology.
Think “green tech” automatically means “expensive?” Nope: costs are dropping on everything from Earthships to solar power.
An affordable Earthship: I’ve been in love with the Earthship building concept for years, but no way I’d ever be able to afford one. That may be changing, though: the “Simple Survival” model Earthship is designed to provide the amenities of these self-sufficient structures without the “mortgage bondage.” Check it out above.
Cool concept cars and planes, speakers that turn ordinary objects into amplifiers, and the potential environmental cost of washing your jacket: this week’s green tech finds.
Honda’s very cool, very light electric concept vehicle: Unfortunately, “concept” often means we’ll never see one on the road. Still, Honda’s EV-STER (which rolled out last week at the Tokyo Auto Show, and is pictured above) shows the company combining electric power with light weight (through lots of body elements made from carbon) and sweet styling; maybe they’ll keep thinking this way as they work towards new production vehicles. (via Earth Techling)
Underground skyscrapers, smart windows and more problems with natural gas drilling: Your green tech finds for the week.
Charge your car with your phone: Well, not exactly, but a new app developed by IBM and Swiss utility EKZ allows for better management of when your electric vehicle is charged and what sources of energy are used to charge it. Find out more in the video above. (via @greeneconpost)
The grain silo hotel: While not as green as it could be (because the structures used were built for the project), Silo Stay, a nine-unit New Zealand hotel built from grain silos…
Lots of green tech on wheels this week: Ford’s concept e-bike, Peugeot’s tiny electric car, and the Air Force’s big move towards EV adoption.
Ford getting into the bicycle business? Maybe: the company released an e-bike concept at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The frame weighs in at a very light 5.5 pounds, and the electric assist motor can run for 53 miles. (via Matter Network and Rodale)
The printed bicycle: The Aerospace Innovation Centre’s bicycle concept on display at the London Design Festival is made from nylon and created by a process similar to 3D printing. The result: a lightweight frame that’s supposedly as strong as steel. (via Do the Green Thing)
Architect Michael Jantzen is known for creating “transformable” structures: buildings that an inhabitant can change or interact with on a physical level. Think of them as the high-art equivalent to a snail shell. After all, why keep your house in one place when you can hit the road and bring it with you? His latest project, the “M” series, features relocatable buildings that can be slapped together in infinite combinations to a matrix of modular support frames, creating totally customizable spaces. If you were a Lego freak as a child, you should probably stop reading and splash cold water on your face, ’cause yeah, this is totally big kid LEGOs.
Pig poop, coconuts, and seaweed: all the stuff of good green tech finds this week.
An affordable, fast and tip-proof electric motorcycle: Lit Motors CEO Daniel Kim claims all of those qualities come together in the C-1 concept, which could be available as early as 2013. Check it out in the video above. (via GreenTech Pastures)
Harvesting runner power, turning plastic back into oil and becoming a (virtual) upcycling magnate: your green tech finds for the week.
Charge your phone with your shoes: If you run or walk regularly, you’re creating mechanical energy that’s going to waste. The Instep Nanopower concept offers a way to capture that power and transfer it to electronic devices via wi-fi. (via Inhabitat and @EcoverUS)
Become a Trash Tycoon on Facebook: Tired of Farmville? Guerillaapps new Facebook-based social game Trash Tycoon (which is sponsored by upcycling company Terracycle) gives you the opportunity to build a virtual recycling empire. (via Crisp Green)
Lots of building tech this week, from shipping container “farms” to a net-zero rehab to a “living building” in Seattle.
Shipping containers as mini farms?: Is there anything you can’t do with used shipping containers? Atlanta-based PodPonics turns them into small hydroponic “farms” for growing food near the point of sale. (via Triplepundit)
Solar collector by day, light display by night: Move over, Jumbotron! Industrial designer Meidad Marzan‘s Urban Tiles concept combines solar panels and OLED panels that can be installed on the outside of buildings in an array, and which “flip” to shift from solar collector to advertising display, big screen television, or even a massive artistic canvas. (via Inhabitat)
While I don’t have numbers at my fingertips, I’d be willing to bet that most new LEED certified commercial buildings fall into the office space category: corporate headquarters or other buildings in which lots of people work behind desks. There’s nothing wrong with that; These structures certainly use plenty of energy and water, and elements of green building such as the focus on daylighting and air quality make for more pleasant and productive workplaces.
But what about those buildings where products are manufactured, processed and/or distributed? In many cases, these are the real resource hogs sorely in need of, at the very least, a good green retrofitting. And new structures built around resource efficiency can be real cost savers for their owners.
Would you live in an old Hummer? Could solar power be available even when the sun’s not shining? These and other questions answered in this week’s green tech finds.
Harvesting ambient energy with paper antennas: Researchers at Georgia Tech are experimenting with pulling electromagnetic energy from the air with “antennas” printed on paper with inkjet technology. (via Grist)
Biodegradable sneakers that sprout flowers: Amsterdam-based OAT Shoes creates sneakers that not only biodegrade in soil, they even have wildflower seeds embedded in the tongue, so you can add to your garden once the shoes are worn out. (via Yahoo! Green)
A 72,000 square foot tornado-proof (and kinda’ green) mansion, a sweet electric motorcycle, and a push for a redesigned toilet… this week’s green tech finds.
- The mobile waste-to-ethanol unit: Easy Energy Systems‘ MEPS unit is a modular system for converting organic wastes to ethanol. Find out more about the system and its application in an interview with EES’ founder at Cleantechies.
- Walkability as a marketing point for real estate? Apparently so… Walkscore now boasts a presence on over 10,ooo real estate websites that “are using its neighborhood mapping and data services to market their properties.”
Green roofs are quickly becoming a standard for improving building energy efficiency and managing storm water run-off. Chicago became a green roofing hub during the Daley administration, and Toronto now mandates them for new buildings. But, unless a building owner has plans for a rooftop garden (and the care required for it), a green roof requires plants that can thrive under hot, dry, and sunny conditions. Farmer and management consultant Ed Snodgrass saw an opportunity here, and, in 2004, expanded his wholesale nursery into the green roof plants niche.
eople-powered gyms, transmitting from turtles in Illinois, and combining flies and poop for good use… your green tech finds for the week.
- The open-source solar concentrator: Designer Eerik Wissenz claims that his Solar Fire open source solar concentrator concept can harvest power at ten times cheaper than photovoltaics. Check it out in the video above… (via Earth Techling)
- New university trend — the human-powered gym: Powering exercise and recreation facilities with energy harvested from workout equipment is catching on at universities… the Sustainable Cities Collective takes a closer look at Drexel University’s approach.