Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ULTra PRT - Pod People of England

ULTra stands for Urban Light Transit.

It’s a new revolution in personal transport for a sustainable future. With 12 years in development, it is designed to answer our traffic congestion problems, pollution, infrastructure gaps, and possibly help you avoid being late for your next 8am meeting.

For my geek friends, ULTra is electrically powered, creating zero emissions at the point of use, with significantly reduced energy usage overall. The average system energy usage is 0.55 MJ per passenger km. See more specs here.

Better yet just watch the video of future production at Heathrow Airport!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Green House of the Future

Wall Street Journal is back! They have their salaries back and their spirits are up. Actually, it is just the same old thinking or truly rethinking design and architecture? William McDonough + Partners outlined their eco-designs for green houses of the future.

The task was simple. Four architects were asked to:
-Design an energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable house without regard to cost, technology, aesthetics or the way we are used to living.
-Do not dream up anything impossible or unlikely. Sorry no antigravity living rooms.
-Brainstorm what technology might make possible in the next few decades.

I would love to have one. How about you?

Source: Treehugger New and Wall Street Journal 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Are you a Doer?

What have you done this week? Have you gotten off your butt to contribute in any way? Are you going to be a weekend warrior or a Wednesday, hump day average Joe?

Well, this ad from Honda explains, "Doers do things. Things to move us forward, to make stuff better." The ad goes on to imagine a world where people and companies are doers in every stake of life who take an active role in making environmentally conscious decisions. Great clip!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Get your Green Groove On

Green Groove is a new online service helps you with phased withdrawals on catastrophic climate change. What? Ok, I mean, they help consumers create personalized "withdrawal" plans to help them organically adapt to more sustainable ways and embrace eco-conscious choices.

It’s 3 easy steps.
First, you choose a plan type (for you or your family), length (one month or more), and level of difficulty (weekend warrior or green machine).

Second, you set goals in four categories (home, lifestyle, diet, and auto).

Last, you prioritize goals in the order you’d like to follow them.

Don’t sweat it! A downloadable widget helps you to keep and stay on track of their goals. Just try it….

Monday, April 20, 2009

Burn calories. Not Oil.

Lately, we have been living in a bartering world. I’ll trade you 3 gallons of gas for 5 carpool days. And 5 carbon credits for $50. What about some of the basic everyday needs…say transportation?

Bixi is a high-tech public bike system in Montreal (even more sophisticated than Paris’ Velib service) that will be launched in the Spring. These aren’t your ordinary, check in and check out bikes. They are all equipped with RFID tags that allow users to track availability online via real-time information beamed like Star-Trek to the web from the system's solar-powered bike stands. Yes, I did say solar!

Smart. Convenient. Available 24/7. Three seasons of the year. And helps you burn calories, not oil. You can choose from 300 stations with 3,000 bikes.

Their positioning is simple: Take It. Ride It. Return It.

Users will pay a membership fee of $78 (CDN) for one year or $24 for one month or $5 for one day, with the first half hour of every trip provided free of charge.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Kyoto Box Ho!

This is what I am talking about; cheap tech for the masses that makes lives better in an instant and provides local economy. Not the microwave or a Crock Pot, but the Kyoto Box.

John Bohmer's Kyoto Box won the $75,000 Financial Times and HP Climate Change Challenge on April 9th, 2009, thanks to an ultra-cheap and no-brains-needed-simple design. It is brilliant device with the potential to provide cooked food and clean water to billions. The $5 solar-powered invention consists of a black inner cardboard box and a silver foil-covered outer box that concentrate enough heat to cook food and boil water. Bohmer's invention could be a major upgrade for the two billion people that still use CO2-emitting firewood as fuel.

The Norwegian-born inventor's box has entered into production mode in Nairobi, Kenya factory with the capacity to produce 2.5 million boxes each month. Mr. Bohmer envisions the mass production of an equally cheap version of the Kyoto Box made from recycled plastic. Even better, what if this pocket size cooker would be eligible for carbon credits? Ok, we might be pushing it. But still an option, no?

Other finalists in the Financial Times competition include Carbonscape (an industrial microwave that "fixes" carbon sucked out of the atmosphere), Mootral (a feed additive for cows that curbs methane production), and Evaporating Tiles (an indoor cooling system that evaporates water within hollow tiles). Ultimately, the box won out because of its potential for cheap mass manufacturing and the ability to affect billions of lives.

Funny, how this little box can make such a big movement on our priorities. We have billions of people on this planet without access to food, clothes and clean drinking water, and all it takes is a $5 invention and an entry into a contest to open people’s eyes. Again for all you Gen Xers and Boomers – GET REAL! Get off your couch and begin to see the big picture. Who cares about your 401K or townhouse? We have access to top scientific talent and all we end up doing is pushing paperwork and protocol.

We all need to seriously reconsider what the “new” $5 investment is nowadays!
Source: Fast Company

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tahoe's Unclear Future

Lake Tahoe is among the world’s deepest lakes at 1,645 ft and it still attracts speedboats, rafters, fishermen and tourism. Truly a beautiful place with mountains, balloon rides, water activities…but something seems fishy. The old timers and scientists are sending red flags that Lake Tahoe is clouding up.

Now this isn’t one of those “sprinkle-some-pool-chemical” options. We have a major problem here. Monitoring by the University of California shows the clarity has diminished by one-third (sounds like my 401K!). Additionally, they have measured that the average depth has changed from 102 ft to 70 ft. Light scattering sediments have been tested and yielded runoff from condo roofs, marina debris, and other shore growth that is impeding visibility.

We already have global warming and climate change to address. Not to point any fingers, but some folks are wondering how much more construction and development is needed. National Geographic covered a short story about how the abundance of pine, cedar and fresh water are vanishing.

They just keep building.
Boats are leaking oil and gasoline.
Every year it gets more populated with garbage and beer cans.
And the water color has changed questionably clear to nuclear green.

I’m not being a party pooper, but seriously, we need to reconsider our garbage behavior, shopping habits and general consumption. I'm all for being a weekend warrior of kiteboarding and rock climbing, but have respect! Or Karma and Mother Nature will get you back...

Source: National Geographic, April 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Eco-Fatigue and Eco-Bounty

A new term soon to be part of the urban dictionary or word-of-the-day is:

eco-fatigue (adj.): someone who has been repeatedly bitched slapped in the face by environmental messages and is clueless what to do next.

“I’m so eco-fatigued that I can barely go shopping and consume more shit that I don’t need.”

We are so addicted to using words that are commonly overused such as green, consumption, biodiversity, and because of that we have become fatigued. There is still too much talk on the political and corporate fronts, and not enough action. We simply want a concierge to bring us our environmentally friendly products and services on a silver platter, when in reality we need to get our hands dirty, roll up our sleeves and start to do something.

This is what we (real Sustaino folks) call eco-bounty.

ECO-BOUNTY refers to the numerous opportunities, both short and long term, for brands that participate in the epic quest for a sustainable society. Some of these opportunities exist despite the current recession, others are fueled by it, not in the least because of new rules and regulations. Downturn-obsessed brands who lose their eco-focus will find themselves left out in the cold when the global economy starts recovering."

Here are some examples of Eco-Bounty:

The Bigbelly is a solar powered trash compactor that holds up to five times as much waste as a regular bin. The highly flexible units can be placed almost anywhere, reducing waste collection and energy costs.

Victorian Eco Innovation Lab, a sustainability organization founded by the Australian government in 2006, invented a shading system capturing solar energy in schoolyards called VEIL Solar Shades. A user-friendly touch screen at the base of the shade is designed so simply even for dummies and young children to use and monitor solar energy production and storage, turn the shade and recharge portable devices using energy from the shade.

In London, Above + Below, turns restored London Underground and London Bus seat covers into shoes. Finely crafted, comfortable, robust and contemporary, a Limited Edition Trainer ($90-120 US) is made by sweat shop free, European labor. Restored from British Rail seat #267. The trim is 100% recycled or repurposed leather, the sole is 33% recycled rubber and even features a retro-flective safety strip.

Consume less. Conserve more.

Source Images: Trendwatching 2009