Posts tagged ‘Inspiration’

complete energy system by a 15 yr old boy

“An invention that is narrowly focused on solving a single problem often inadvertently creates more problems because nature is highly complex and interconnected.” – Javier Fernandez-Han

Who is Javier Fernandez-Han? He’s a 15 year old boy, who invented an energy system, centred around salt-water algae. The system is made up of six subsystems, which “can treat waste, produce methane and bio-fuel, and is a source of livestock and human food production… produces oxygen and sequesters greenhouse gasses”. He calls it the VERSATILE system.

The system uses waste from one part of the system, to fuel others. Not unlike feeding rabbit poo to a garden that will feed rabbits (I wish mine did). My understanding of permaculture is still very shallow, but this seems to sum up the principles pretty well: work with the interconnectedness of ecosystems to make things easier, rather than trying to beat nature into submission to accomplish a single thing. The more I pay attention to the world around me, the more I realize how much more sense it makes.

The benefits of the VERSATILE energy system include better health for villagers due to cleaner burning methane stoves, less deforestation due to wood scavenging for fuel, possible income from the sale of algae biomass for pharmaceutical or nutraceutical products, easier livestock production because of more availability of feed, LED lighting powered by electricity generation from the PlayPump, and a source of fuel for machinery (from algae oil).

Do yourself a favour and read more about VERSATILE on Clean Technica. It’s fascinating.

Javier’s idea won the “Invent Your World Challenge” sponsored by Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. The program empowers youth (“a global community of young changemakers”) to create positive social change, which seems like a pretty freaking good idea to me.

From their website: “everyone in society could take initiative and address social needs, rather than looking to the elite few who lead today.”


June 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

Imagine a Car-Free Suburb.

Here’s the result of visionary city planning: the streets of an upscale neighbourhood in Vauban, Germany are designed for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than cars.

The neighbourhood is car-free except the main road, where public transit runs. It does not have street parking, driveways, or garages attached to the homes. No more ugly snout-houses. Residents are allowed to have cars, but they have to buy a parking space at the edge of the development. Most families buy cars together or rent communal cars from Vauban’s car-sharing club when they need a car to move large purchases or to take vacations. [For the record, there are car-sharing organizations in Canada.] Sounds crazy, right? Of course it does, in a city like London, Ontario, that doesn’t have a decent grocery store downtown. But imagine what a sense of community a neighbourhood can have when people aren’t just moving between their cars and their houses. I love hanging out in my front yard and talking to the people who walk by.

The trick is actual urban design, which locates stores within walking distance.

“Development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people,” said PPG 13, the British government’s revolutionary 2001 planning document.

The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for “car-reduced” communities in the USA, and a change in legislature may help. A six-year transportation bill to be approved this year is expected to consider public transportation service to suburbs. This is a big shift, since by law 80 percent of funding has gone to highways vs 20% for all other transport.
Still, zoning laws in the USA generally require two parking spaces per residence, and mortgage lenders can’t get behind the idea that someone would want to buy a house without space for cars. “People in the U.S. are incredibly suspicious of any idea where people are not going to own cars, or are going to own fewer,” according to David Ceaser, the co-founder of CarFree City USA.

It’s perfectly reasonable to demand enlightened thinking from your city government.

There’s a lot more to read about the topic in this New York Times article.

May 14, 2009 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

1000 year Chandelier

Everyone’s heard that styrofoam takes 1000 years to break down, but we still use it for coffee cups and packaging. The least we can do is upcycle. Eric Lawrence just won the Sustainable Prize in Design Within Reach Austin’s M+D+F competition for his beautiful chandelier made out of the styrofoam packing material from Apple laptops.
It reminds me of all those crazy 70’s plastic lamps-of-the-future.

styrofoam chandelier

chandelier view

via Make.

May 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Eco-Pirates Seize Raven’s Ait

Back in February, an activist who goes by Nick Revolving, 28, was taking a leisurely boat ride in the Thames and realized that an island that once served as a venue for weddings and conferences was lying vacant as a result of the economic downturn. So he decided to do something productive with it. So he invited his friends, and with an aim to “to give it back to the people,” they’ve been squatting on it in a sustainable model commune, complete with a tree-house and raised-bed permaculture gardens.

The goal of the group is to “transform the island into an eco conference centre, aimed at showcasing green ideas and promote sustainable development” In the hopes of making it official, they’ve submitted formal plans for their “sustainable island” to the local council, but the council members are unwilling to negotiate while the squatters are still on the land.

In fact, they’ve issued an eviction notice, so my understanding of squatters rights in England is obviously flawed. It seemed to work for the Geurrilla Gardeners. Interesting though, that although the island has been vacant since November, council urgently wants them off because “there are companies interested” in the land. The community’s behind these eco-pirates, saying that “They’re serving the community”, but the group says it will leave in eight weeks time. Shame. I wonder what the consequences of ignoring an eviction notice are?

Read the article in Yahoo News. Or better yet, visit the Raven’s Ait website to read about their plans and show your support.


from the Ravens Ait Facebook page:

The island was evicted by a large armed police operation in the early hours of Friday May 1st 2009.

The council are now paying for 24 hour security with a continous rolling presence of around 10 guards (at an estimated cost of £2000 a day of taxpayers money) while they try to sell off the island.

We think this is a gross waste of taxpayers money that could have been spent supporting our proposal for a community centre. Of course the island is no longer accessible to the public either, so effectively taxpayers are paying vast sums of money to keep themselves off the island while the council prepares to sell this historic piece of common land to a hotel or property developer

What a terrible lack of vision. The group hasn’t given up, though. They’re appealing to the media to help them raise £1.5 million “to save this island as a community facility for all generations to enjoy into the future.” I’ve asked them if they have a paypal account, and will post the link if they have one, for anyone who wishes to make a donation.

May 6, 2009 at 4:31 am Leave a comment

Environmental Heroines and Snail Porn

TreeHugger has posted an inspiring slideshow of 11 “environmental heroines” who have brought about change “with their work as activists, community builders, sustainers, nurturers, artists, politicians, scientists and teachers alike.”
Majora Carter
Whether or not you celebrate Mother’s Day, it’s hard not to celebrate woman who have changed the world, in their own way. Plus it led me to this: snail porn Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno: short films on the mating habits of insects. Who knew snails were sadomasochistic?

May 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

The WHO Farm Project

You’ve probably heard by now that Michelle Obama has planted a 1100 sq ft organic vegetable garden on the Whitehouse Lawn to supply the White House kitchen. But do you know where the idea originated?

Although Michelle Obama had her own reasons for starting the garden, it started with a non-partisan, petition-based initiative called The WhoFarm (White House Organic Farm) Project. The Project, lead by Daniel Bowman Simon, 28, and Casey Gustowarow, 27, acquired the WHOFarmMobile, (two school buses fused together with an organic edible garden on the roof) and drove across 25 states to raise awareness and gather signatures for their petition.

the whofarmmobile

As the first harvest comes off the garden, we can see a positive example of how a grass roots movement made a huge difference. Now “every single person from Prince Charles on down” are talking about it:

More on what people are saying later.

Think about The WHOFarm the next time you think, “why bother, the government isn’t going to do anything”.

evidently the WHOFarm wasn’t the only group petitioning for a Whitehouse garden. Roger Doiron started a project called Eat The View in Feb 2008, which gathered 100 000 signatures.

May 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm 1 comment

Raingutter gardens

I am stunned by the ingenuity of these re-purposed rain gutter gardens. They are an excellent way to increase your gardening space. They’re perfect the perfect size for growing herbs, leeks, and lettuce. Plus they’re beautiful to look at–they’d look amazing with trailing nasturtiums. raingutter gardens


April 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

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