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Sustainable Design

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Had the Industrial Revolution never happened, there'd still be doctors, lawyers, farmers and merchants—but there darn sure wouldn't be any industrial designers. It's a bit of a shame that the event that enabled our very profession caused such widespread pollution, but we didn't understand the environmental effects back then, and even if we did it wouldn't have stopped men like Carnegie and Loewy.

Now that we are grasping the environmental effects of pollution, what we're learning is staggering. A new study published this week posits that pollution from Asia's industrial boom is affecting the weather in North America. The study, performed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and reported by Live Science, finds that "Pollution from China's coal-burning power plants is pumping up winter storms over the northwest Pacific Ocean and changing North America's weather."

"The increasing pollution in Asian countries is not just a local problem, it can affect other parts of the world," [lead study author and atmospheric scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Yuan] Wang told Live Science. ...Wang and his co-authors examined how the tiny pollution particles in Asia play a role in cloud formation and the storms that spin up each winter east of Japan, in a cyclone breeding ground north of 30 degrees latitude. Monsoon winds carry aerosols from Asia to this storm nursery in the winter.
...The new study finds that sulfate aerosols are among the most important drivers of Pacific storms, by encouraging more moisture to condense in clouds, Wang said.

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Posted by Moa Dickmark  |   2 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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A few years ago, I saw a picture of a desk that captured my eye. I can't remember exactly where I saw it—perhaps it was this very blog—I just remember not being able to stop thinking about it. I searched the Internet to find out who had created this lovely desk and ended up on the website of Manoteca. Now, when I see something that I like, I have to tell the person who is behind it that I like their creation (or what they are wearing, or what they are singing, or what they are drawing, etc.) Call it what you will, OCD if you wish.

So I found the e-mail address for the person behind the brand, and it turned out to be a young woman called Elisa. Since then, we haven't written much, but my curiosity for the person and the visions behind the brand is still there. So, here comes the second article about young ambitious entrepreneurs working within the creative field.

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Core77: What led you to start Manoteca?

Elisa Cavani: Before creating Manoteca, I was working as a visual merchandiser for fashion companies, for more or less ten years. I traveled a lot and gained a lot of information. In those ten years, I met very respectable people with so much talent. Yet the structure of big companies crushed them—I saw many people forget the things they believed in and give up any kind of talent. I was scared because I could feel that it was happening to me as well, so I decided to "fire" myself and create something that I had had in my head for so long.

This was the beginning. I moved the furniture in my apartment and for a year I worked, lived and slept in the middle of tools and sawdust. To me, the pieces of my first collection represent the freedom of expression. I loved them so much. I spent my evenings watching them, cleaning them one by one, every single hole and crack in the material. I really treated them as if they were the most valuable things I owned. In fact, they still are.

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Did your ten years of experience as a merchandiser have any influence on how you started your brand?

I didn't think so initially, then I thought again and came up with a better answer. The visual merchandisers work with the visual language, they communicate feelings and moods but cannot use words. There is so much of this in Manoteca. There is a maniacal attitude, for which everything have to be perfect, and a meticulous attention to every detail. There is the organization and optimization of the time. There are the administrative and commercial skills, which I unwittingly absorbed and modified in favor of the brand. There is the knowledge of foreign markets that I have followed for a long time, the awareness that every person have different habits and cultural characteristics that you need to know, otherwise it is impossible to communicate. There are errors that I have made in the past, from which I can benefit today. There is a predisposition for solid and professional structure, which hasallowed the project to go around the world.

In retrospect, I should say 'Thank You' to my past.

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Posted by core jr  |   5 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In this three-part mini-series, Stefanie Koehler shares her experiences in bringing a sustainability focus into her work.

Part 1: A New Way of Thinking · Part 2: Putting Theory into Practice · Part 3: Learning from Nature

During the 2012–13 Biomimicry Student Design Challenge (BSDC) competition, I discovered that solving humanity's biggest design challenges requires new skills applied within a comprehensive framework that integrates sustainability. I gained a deeper understanding of the Buckminster Fuller Institute's tenet of what Fuller described as "comprehensive anticipatory design scientists." (Fuller, 1999)

Learning from nature

Biomimicry, the practice of emulating models and strategies found in nature, provides designers with tools for seeing and learning from nature in new ways (Biomimicry 3.8 Institute), serving to both embed an ethos of sustainability and potentially inspire radical thinking.

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For the competition, I explored the use of biomimicry as a process for creating a sustainable product as well as a scalable social enterprise idea. Under the inspirational guidance of Denise Deluca, co-founder and director of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation (BCI), this work ultimately grew from my Master's thesis project.

My design concept was a water treatment system called SolDrop. My team went on to become the only US finalists in the global 2013 BSDC and I had the honor of presenting at the Biomimicry Education Summit and Global Conference in Boston that year.

Koehler-3-BSDC_880.jpgSolDrop Solar Still concept by Stefanie Koehler (competition entry for the Biomimicry Student Design Challenge)

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Posted by core jr  |   4 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In this three-part mini-series, Stefanie Koehler shares her experiences in bringing a sustainability focus into her work.

Part 1: A New Way of Thinking · Part 2: Putting Theory into Practice · Part 3: Learning from Nature

Practicing sustainability-focused design, like any art form, is a skill that requires craft and sensitivity. As designers, we are tasked to skillfully create consumable goods, services and systems that inevitably make an impact on many levels, many of which are not well understood or even measurable. By learning and then practicing various approaches, I have begun to understand design from a whole-systems perspective, considering both the micro and macro scale. This way of thinking has led me to consider the trade-offs—from materials to process to business strategy—that I make with every design decision.

Doing is Believing

Many people think that sustainability-focused design is a burden—futile, depressing and difficult. Some don't even believe it is possible. Designing with sustainable outcomes in mind may have these pitfalls but I have been able to debunk these negative opinions by studying sustainability theory and putting it into practice.

To become efficient and ultimately more effective at anything, one needs to practice—a lot—and sustainability-focused design is no exception. By applying comprehensive sustainability approaches to different design challenges, I have not only learned that sustainable outcomes are achievable but also that it is rewarding, both personally and professionally.

In Jeremy Faludi's Collaborative Product Design course, offered by the fully online Sustainable Design graduate program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), I was able to practice sustainability-focused approaches such as energy effectiveness, design for appropriate lifetime, biomimicry and responsible materials, to name a few. We directly applied these solutions to new solutions for existing products with real companies; I had the pleasure of practicing a collaborative redesign for Steelcase's Circa Chair.

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Posted by core jr  |   3 Mar 2014  |  Comments (2)

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In this three-part mini-series, Stefanie Koehler shares her experiences in bringing a sustainability focus into her work.

Part 1: A New Way of Thinking · Part 2: Putting Theory into Practice · Part 3: Learning from Nature

We all know the plight of the typical industrial designer: make (more) stuff; repeat. But with the nexus of vast technical abilities and support systems to deliver ideas, where does responsibility and "design sensitivity" come into play? How will we be able to design with an understanding that every design decision is connected in some way to everything else (either directly or indirectly) and will inevitably have a social and environmental impact (intended or not)? Is it even our responsibility as designers to think about the impact of our designs? Do we need to worry about what happens up or downstream of our products, or is that someone else's job?

Where I Was

In 2009, armed with a traditional industrial design degree, I entered the workforce and immediately began to struggle with the paradox of wanting to use my newly-honed design skills yet feeling like I needed to make crap to get paid. At the time, I did not grasp my role as a young designer, but I did know that continuing to design harmful, and sometimes pointless, products was not going to fulfill me. I decided I did not want to participate in a cycle that turns everything into a consumable or everyone into a consumer.

Following my undergrad, I initially tried to get my foot in the door, only to question why I was trying to get in the door in the first place. I ended up not taking the prescribed path of working for a conventional design firm, taking on freelance projects instead, ranging from corporate product design and branding to gritty consulting for start-ups and training dogs on the side. I wondered if could I turn my (perceived) inability to get a "real job" into an opportunity to engage in a career path that makes me happy? Luckily, I found that the answer was "yes," and that sustainability-focused design has filled this void for me, both personally and professionally.

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Posted by Ray  |   5 Feb 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Update: An earlier version of this story misreported that the structure works like a cooling tower.

The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 are pleased to announce the winner of this year's Young Architects Program (YAP), an annual call for proposals for a temporary outdoor installation for the converted schoolyard space in Long Island City. In keeping with the institution's mission to support contemporary art, architecture and design practice, the entries invariably err on the side of experimental even as they meet a brief to 1.) provide shade, seating and water, and 2.) address environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling. New Yorkers and well-heeled visitors alike have probably encountered one of these structures during MoMA PS1's weekly Warm-Up summer concert series, when these spectacular projects serve to elevate the courtyard (literally, at times) from a humble outdoor venue to a visionary social space.

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The winner of the 15th YAP is The Living, an architectural practice led by principal David Benjamin, whose "Hy-Fi" is billed as a "100% organic" structure. Designed using "biological technologies combined with cutting-edge computation and engineering," the ambitious eco-edifice comes in at roughly three stories tall, with its lower portions constructed from organic bricks developed in conjunction with bio-material specialists Ecovative. Its upper extremities are made from hollow reflective bricks—"produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film"—by 3M, which will first be used as the "growing trays" for the corn+'shroom bricks.

The organic bricks are arranged at the bottom of the structure and the reflective bricks are arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground. The structure inverts the logic of load-bearing brick construction and creates a gravity-defying effect—instead of being thick and dense at the bottom, it is thin and porous at the bottom.

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Posted by core jr  |   3 Feb 2014  |  Comments (4)

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A few years ago, I became slightly obsessed with embodied energy, which led to a new perspective on both materials and design, in the form of a self-initiated experiment and ultimately a design tool. I wanted to share some of my thoughts from this process to try and pass on a passion for embodied energy.

The whole process started by reading David Mackay's book "Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air." His "we need numbers not adjectives" attitude really appealed to me at the time, as I was getting very frustrated with some of the subjectivity and lack of depth in some sustainable design. It was with this mindset that I went searching for embodied energy data. The first time I trawled through a data set, I was pretty intrigued. This was a single number that summarized the intensely complicated journey of a material from digging its ore out of the ground through to the myriad of processes that lead to a usable material. The numbers also varied hugely between materials, revealing energy stories that I was completely unaware of. In a fairly short span of time, this data had completely changed my perspective on a lot of materials that I previously thought I was very familiar with.

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What really caught my imagination was the fact that this was physical data. Unlike electricity consumption, where you need to go to great lengths to record and visualize energy, this data told you that the lump of material you're holding took 10 megajoules of energy to go from earthbound ore to product in hand. I could now define my whole material world in terms of energy—and that's exactly what I started doing, carrying a screwdriver and a set of scales I started disassembling and weighing products to try and calculate their embodied energy. This quickly escalated to doing an embodied energy calculation for everything I owned.

These calculations were very rough, but gave me an approximate figure for everything, allowing me to compare different elements of my lifestyle. Computers and camera gear, with their exotic circuitboard materials and batteries, far outweighed everything else, while other things, like my bikes, seemed pretty insignificant. This showed me that crunching the numbers, however crudely, will reveal all sorts of insights into the energy stories of our stuff.

At this point, I had gathered a lot of data and started to see the world in a slightly different light but what I was really interested in was how this data would affect the design process. There were various tools for conducting life cycle analysis on finished designs but I wanted to experiment with ways of using embodied energy to drive the design process from the start. I set myself a simple design brief with ambitious energy quotas. To redesign the Anglepoise lamp (which had weighed in at 140 Megajoules) to quotas of one, ten and 20 Megajoules. The idea was to put energy as the driving force at the start of the design process and see what happens.

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Posted by Jeremy Faludi  |  28 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Halfway through its second year, Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD)'s Master of Arts in Sustainable Design program continues to represent the leading edge of advanced design studies. This year, four companies—Cascade Designs, Hamilton Beach, Anthro and Rayne Longboards—all had their products analyzed and brainstormed for sustainable redesign.

MCAD's entirely online program gives students from around the world two years of training in analysis and creativity for sustainable design, from packaging and graphics to products. This past semester, I once again taught collaborative product design, which brings groups of students together across different industries and time zones to redesign consumer products. They start by video-chatting their product tear-down, to perform life-cycle assessment and determine top priorities for sustainability. Groups redesign their products using the Whole Systems and Life-Cycle design method created for the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop. This structures and unifies their ideation over the weeks, which spans energy effectiveness, design for lifetime, materials choices, biomimicry, and persuasive design.

The students did a fantastic job, deftly showing the companies which aspects of their products were the biggest concerns and which needn't be bothered with, based on both LCA and green certification systems, showing companies a larger context around their products and generating a plethora of great ideas, from subtle tweaks to radical re-envisionings. Below are some samples of their work (click to enlarge in new window/tab).

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Since the dawn of time, high fashion has recycled low... and congratulated itself for doing so. Antique Japanese boro fabric, increasingly popular among the edgy styluminati, is simultaneously co-branded couture, lowbrow folk tradition, and literally recycled. Boro traces its lineage to the traditional cloths used and reused and re-reused by rural farmers, artisans, craftspeople and laborers between the 18th and 20th centuries. Before cotton was widely available in Japan, the most commonly used fibers came from tough and abundant sources like jute, wisteria and bast. Rough stuff for sure, but resistant to wear and tear. As cotton production increased and cotton products began to spread, used cotton kimonos and other textiles became available at more affordable prices.

kimonofabric.jpgExploded diagram of a kimono, Boro fabric exploding at the seams

Boro_The_Fabric_of_Life_880.jpgTasteful French gallery show of other people's old workwear

To get the most out of these valuable softer fabrics, they were patched over and over, sometimes being torn into strips and rewoven, integrating the tougher materials for reinforcement. Dyed textiles would often be taken apart, redyed and rewoven in multiple iterations, creating a deeply textured and mottled appearance over time. Sometimes you can find signs of a fabric's earlier life, like the darker strip on a blanket where a kimono collar used to be. The most recognizable boro fabrics feature an array of indigo hues, carefully patchworked with strong quilting or darning stitches. (For a good time, look up "sashiko" stitching, which literally translates as "little stabs." Quilting is pretty metal.) The patches on most boro fabric, while varied in color and size, are usually square or rectangular. Coincidence? Nope, nor a cultural obsession with rigid angles. It's another sign of efficiency and good design.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)

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In design school in the '90s, they taught us that products about to become obsolete change their form factor to imitate their successors shortly before dying out. In other words, the lesson went, landline telephones would start to look like cell phones in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, and then they would disappear.

Twenty years later, we see an almost opposite phenomenon with LED bulbs, which have oddly tried to mimic the physical appearance, in broad strokes, of the incandescent bulb. But finally Philips has realized this is silly—and expensive, as LEDs occupying a lightbulb-sized volume require pricey heat sinks. Thus they've designed these cool, new SlimStyle LED bulbs.

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They've got the efficiency you've come to expect from LEDs—a 60-watt equivalency wrung from just 10.5 watts—and because they're so skinny, and made from plastic rather than glass, the bulky heat sink can go away. That's good news for consumers' wallets, as the price-per-bulb has finally dropped below the $10 threshold. And yep, they're dimmable.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   2 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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One of last year's entries to make the 2013 roundup was this piano that was converted into a workbench. Any time you've got 300-plus pounds of antique quarter-sawn oak sitting around, it is of course better to recycle it into something useful, even if the music-generating parts no longer work; and the cast-iron parts can be hauled down to a salvage yard for some extra dough.

It looks like a lot of folks are onto this. Vicky Neuman converted an old upright into a bookcase/desk, and exhaustively documented the process, with many photos, here.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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While landfill is generating electricity for their Fort Wayne and Orion plants, General Motors has a very different plan for their massive Renaissance Center office complex in Detroit: Stop adding to landfill altogether.

To give you an idea of what a massive undertaking this is, the GM Renaissance Center is a 5.5-million-square-foot facility (including offices, restaurants, a shopping center and a skyscraper Marriot Hotel) that literally has its own freaking zip code. Some 15,000 people traipse through it daily, and they presumably drink coffee, unwrap sandwiches and print documents like the rest of us. Furthermore 3,000 of those daily inhabitants are visitors from the general public, whose behavior cannot be rigidly enforced as it can with employees and tenants.

To get a handle on the problem, over two years ago GM began doing what we once did as art students: dumpster diving. By physically sifting through trash, GM learned what exactly was being thrown out, then began cataloguing everything and figuring out how all of it—every single last piece—could be diverted from landfill. Part of it is educating people as to what can be recycled and where they should put it; part of it is amassing and effectively distributing containers throughout the complex; not to mention collecting and emptying those containers, then processing the contents.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Dec 2013  |  Comments (2)

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General Motors has quietly been making strides in greening their operations. What's most encouraging is that GM isn't doing it for the publicity; they're doing it simply because technological advances in sustainability are increasingly making good business sense.

In 1999, GM began experimenting with turning landfill gas—those otherwise worthless fumes that do nothing but stink and fill the atmosphere—into energy. By using landfill gas to heat a portion of their paint shop in Orion, Michigan, they discovered they had reduced their energy costs by half per vehicle. In 2002, GM then started using this LFGTE (LandFill Gas to Energy) technology to power parts of their Fort Wayne, Indiana, assembly facility.

Presumably having worked out the kinks, now they're taking bigger steps. This month GM invested $24 million in LFGTE machinery. The Fort Wayne facility's LFGTE percentage will quadruple from 10% to 40%, and the Orion plant will draw a whopping 54% of its juice from the stuff. This will cut 89,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, about the equivalent of what 18,500 cars put out. The total LFGTE yield between the two plants will be 14 megawatts; if they repeat this nine times with other facilities by 2020, they will hit their self-imposed goal of using 125 renewable-energy megawatts.

Here's a local news affiliate's overview of the project:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Dec 2013  |  Comments (4)

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When USB flash drives first came out, they were useful, expensive and valued things. Nowadays they're still useful, but I've got a drawer full of them, as every press conference I attend passes them out like candy. Most are made of plastic, some of metal. As they continue to proliferate, oughtn't we make them out of recycled/recycleable materials?

BOLTgroup thinks so. The North-Carolina-based design firm is trying to Kickstart Gigs 2 Go, their project to release flash drives with bodies made from recycled paper pulp. The idea is that users buy them in credit-card-sized four-packs, and tear them off as needed for file sharing. Have a look:

The reason why I've got this in the "Yea or Nay" section is, do you think these will see uptake, given their cost? When it comes to bang for buck, careful shoppers can scoop up flash drives for roughly 50-cents-to-a-dollar per gigabyte; The Gigs 2 Go drives still available ring in at roughly two bucks per gig, with an early batch of $1/gig long gone. Do you think their uptake will be dependent on cost, or would you be willing to pay slightly more for a thumb drive you could recycle?

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  28 Nov 2013  |  Comments (3)

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Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., when we all give thanks that the heavens have provided us with the Kardashians, a bitterly bifurcated government and wildly diverging views on firearms. We celebrate these things by cooking lots of food, most of it in ovens. But if more of us were like Grant Thompson, a.k.a. The King of Random, we could heat our meals by harnessing the sun's power.

Inveterate tinkerer Thompson has 46 million hits on YouTube for good reason: Because he does crazy shit like snagging a free projection TV on Craigslist and turning the screen—which is essentially an enormous magnifiying glass—into an absurdly powerful, eco-friendly death ray capable of heating things to 2000 degrees Farenheit. Observe:

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Posted by erika rae  |  25 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Half of the fun of the holidays is ripping into presents from family and friends or watching someone else do it. We might feel just a twinge or two of guilt as we crumple shreds of once-pristine paper waste into a trash bag and toss it to the curb for garbage collection, but what the hell, you're on much-needed vacation and you left all of your cares at the office.

Wrong.

The facts: In 2011, Great Britain alone racked up 227,000 miles of wasted paper after the holiday season. (That's enough paper to wrap the world nine times over around the equator.) And according to a study done by Stanford, if every American wrapped three presents in reused materials, the saved paper would cover 45,000 football fields.

The upshot of the guilt trip is that it leads to solutions like wrapping your gifts in the comics section and recycle it when the present party is done, or, say, reusable packaging. UK-based agency BEAF does the DIYers one better with Eden Paper, wrapping paper for the rest of us that you can plant once you're finished tearing into those gifts.

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It's simple: By planting the used paper in some soil and watering it like a regular potted plant, you'll see sprouts in no time. As with Democratech's sprouting pencil and plantable OAT Shoes, the gift wrap is produced with the seeds embedded right into the paper. The brand is currently offering the paper in five flavors—chili peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes and broccoli—but looks to include various flowers and herbs in the future. The gift wrap looks good, too—as good as it tastes, I'm sure. Design-wise, it's a much-needed upgrade from a lot of the holiday wrap you see around the time of year. There's only so much you can take when it comes to iridescent snowflakes and glittery ornaments.

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Posted by erika rae  |  22 Nov 2013  |  Comments (3)

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Paper shopping bags are one of those we unintentionally collect in our homes, reuse one or two times to transport lunch to work and toss when the recyclable pile gets in our way. The reminders to recycle the bag after use are helpful, but they aren't as effective as anyone would like them to be (read: they won't spring legs and walk themselves to the recycling bin). But a team of designers from India has designed a kind of paper shopping bag you won't want to toss to the trash.

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Hangbags are paper bags that are transformed into hangers with a few twists and folds in an attempt to replace plastic versions. The video below shares some shocking facts: Over 1 billion paper shopping bags are used every year and only 1% end up in the recycle bin where they rightly belong. On the flip side, over 8 billion hangers are left to the landfills each year—with each hanger taking over 100 years to break down. After that guilt trip, how could you not want to take it down a notch on your plastic hanger use?

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Nov 2013  |  Comments (3)

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Following yesterday's popular discussion on Americans and trucks, we got to wondering: Whatever happened to Via Motors? To refresh your memory, back in January we brought you the story of an American company taking fresh-off-the-assembly-line trucks from Detroit and turning them into E-REVs (Extended Range Electric Vehicles): Powerful yet environmentally-friendly 100-m.p.g. beasts of burden. The company estimated delivery of the first models by mid-2013, but that vague date period has decidedly come and gone.

We looked into it mostly afraid to find they'd gone belly-up, but were pleased to find they're alive and well, and still leaping hurdles on their way to production. Vehicles have to be crash-tested to meet American safety regulations, and even though the trucks Via aims to produce are existing models that have already been crash-tested by their original manufacturer (General Motors), re-rigging them with electric motors requires a whole new crash test. So last month they smashed up a bunch of their cargo van models—and passed with flying colors. "The engineering work done to integrate the VIA's electric technology has been exceptional and the vehicles have exceeded our expectations in all tests that were performed," says Alan Perriton, president of VIA Motors. "We are now moving on to complete certification and begin mass production."

To that end, just weeks ago Via brought their factory online in Mexico, near the GM factory that cranks out Silverados, one of the vehicles Via hacks up. Here's a look at the facility:

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Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  21 Nov 2013  |  Comments (2)

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Trash is a big problem for the environment. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) in the world for producing garbage, throwing away two billion tons annually. And while recycled materials have come a long way in helping us to reduce our garbage, there is something else that can be done and this includes an interesting insight into product design.

Turns out that how consumers decide if something is trash or recyclable isn't based on whether the product is, in fact, recyclable. It has more to do with the appearance and size of the product. If it looks like trash, then it will be less likely to be recycled.

Products change during their use. Paper is torn, cans are crumpled. And how form or size changes impacts the likelihood of a product being recycled or just tossed in the garbage. This is the finding from a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research [PDF].

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  20 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Go West, young man [whose job it is to install solar panels]

As we neared graduating time at art school in Brooklyn, we students began dividing into two camps: Stayers and Leavers, with the former ready to seek their fortunes in NYC, and the latter scattering across the globe in pursuit of work. My friend Helena, a Stayer and an Art Direction major, worried about the NYC real estate market: "What if I can't find an apartment," she fretted, "with southern light?"

That southern exposures yield the most sunlight during the day is well-known among every architect, interiors photographer and loft-seeking artist in the Northern Hemisphere. Slightly less well-known is that northern exposures supposedly reveal truer colors. But now it's another direction that's coming into play concerning the sun, and that direction is west.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  15 Nov 2013  |  Comments (4)

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Japan was once colloquially known as the Land of the Rising Sun, and it can't be only environmentalists hoping that a country with such a moniker would take solar power to heart. Following the Fukushima disaster of 2011, safe and renewable sources of energy have been under study, and at least one corporate giant has done something about it--rather swiftly, by Japanese standards.

This month Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera pulled the wraps off of the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, a project constructed at a backbreaking pace from September 2012 to October 2013. Some 290,000 solar panels are arrayed on 1.27 million square meters on the coast of Kagoshima Prefecture, making it the largest solar power plant in Japan.

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The juice started flowing on November 1st, and the KNMSPP is expected to generate 70 megawatts of power, enough to power 22,000 homes in the region. As promising as that sounds, the stark math is actually a bit dismal compared to Fukushima: The latter facility generated 4.7 gigawatts, or enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Coca-Cola is known the world over for producing its sugary (or fructose-y) namesake beverage. But in keeping with the ever-greening times, they now hope to form a secondary reputation as a provider of safe, clean drinking water. In Heidelberg, South Africa, Coke recently launched their first EKOCENTER, a 20-foot shipping container meant to serve as a retail kiosk, community center and social hub in impoverished rural areas. To draw bodies, each EKOCENTER is loaded up with a Slingshot, a water purification machine invented by Dean Kamen.

Segway inventor Kamen's Slingshot is amazing. Taking up as much space as a small refrigerator, the thing can run on cow poop and uses no filters, yet can turn any water source into potable water--cranking out up to 1,000 liters a day. And it can run for five years without even requiring any maintenance!

The Slingshot was more than a decade in the making, and with Coca-Cola's backing and global distribution network, is well-positioned to make a significant impact on global health through the EKOCENTER. And in addition to the Slingshot functionality, each container contains solar cells that can be used to power charging points or refrigeration for medicine. Following the South African launch, Coke plans to get the containers into 20 countries in need by 2015, getting safe drinking water into the mouths of millions.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Oct 2013  |  Comments (1)

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As someone whose primary transportation mode is walking, I wish sneakers were designed more like cars. When your car's tires wear out, you pop them off and install new ones (or remold them if they're expensive); but every eight months I have to toss an entire pair of kicks because the treads are gone, and there's nothing for it. No local business I know of will re-sole a $100 pair of running shoes.

Rock climbing shoes are a different story, as they can be resoled and repaired. Places like The Gear Fix, which is three hours south of Core77's Portland HQ in the city of Bend, Oregon, make their living by repairing outdoor gear: bikes, climbing equipment, ski equipment, camping stoves, backpacking gear, and yes, climbing kicks. And re-soling the latter does not look easy, as it's a blend of art and science. An anonymous TGF employee undergoing an apprenticeship on how to do half-soles posted a video showing the process:

There isn't much actual material used, but just look at all of the equipment required, from the wooden inserts to the hand tools to the machinery to the cool little floor-stands. Then there's the learning time, of course; the unnamed apprentice in the video had been at it for about five months prior to shooting it. So how much do you think it costs for a job like that? I was well surprised by the low price: "Basically $35 for a pair of soles," writes the shop, "and $10 each if you need the rands / toe caps replaced." That's nuts.

A couple of climbing shoe notes:

- If you're wondering why this particular repair is half-sole and not full-sole, the area you see being replaced—from the ball of the foot to the toe—is where most of the wear typically occurs in a climbing shoe.

- The "rands" refers to the parts of rubber above the sole, like the "sidewalls" of the toe, for instance.

Posted by erika rae  |   4 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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It's not very often that you have the chance to go to (let alone even see) a drive-in theater—especially if you live in a big city like, hey, New York City. But Brooklyn-based artists Jeff Stark and Todd Chandler are repurposing a bit of the past for us to experience in a whole new way. The duo created a drive-in movie theater that saves cars from local junk yards and repurposes them as the seats for their outdoor theater. The original Empire Drive-In was created for a viewing of Todd Chandler's film "Flood Tide is San Jose, California in 2010. The idea stuck and Empire Drive-In has now been the featured installation at a number of festivals and events, including the 2012 Abandon Normal Devices Festival in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Besides watching a movie on a giant projector screen, audience members are invited to explore their surroundings by switching cars, checking the glove compartments and other nooks and crannies for long-forgotten artifacts and climb on the cars.

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Posted by erika rae  |  25 Sep 2013  |  Comments (16)

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In a tribute to International Peace Day (September 21st), British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss of Sand in Your Eye took a team of 60 volunteers to Normandy beach over the weekend to sketch the outlines of 9,000 soldiers figures into the sand. The installation was created to commemorate the people who lost their lives on June 6th, 1944 and is appropriately titled "The Fallen 9,000."

According to design website Colossal, what started with the artists and 60 volunteers grew to an effort including 500 local residents who jumped in to help after seeing what was going on.

The end result was fleeting and was washed away by the tide after a couple of hours. But these photos most definitely do the project justice:

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Posted by Teshia Treuhaft  |  18 Sep 2013  |  Comments (0)

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We've seen our healthy share of design conferences over the years, but a Better World by Design in Providence, Rhode Island, takes the cake for top-notch interdisciplinary social innovation. Begun just six short years ago as a collaboration between students of the Industrial Design department at the Rhode Island School of Design and engineering at Brown University, the conference has since grown into a three-day event boasting some serious firepower in their recently announced line-up for 2013 covering a multitude of disciplines.

This year's conference will take place from September 27–29 at locations on the campuses of both the Brown University and RISD, who will host some of the major movers and shakers in design, engineering, education and more to share their ideas, stories and plans for action under the event's theme of "Pause + Effect."

The theme for this year's conference is Pause + Effect. It is a decision to make reflection a part of your creative process. Not stagnation, but rather, a state of dynamic equilibrium. Our conference is an opportunity for attendees to pause—reflect, revise and redirect their perspectives—and effect change wherever they go from here.

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We asked the a Better World content team to give us a sneak peak. Here are a few of our most anticipated speakers and workshops.

speakers.jpgSpeakers Former AIGA President Doug Powell and Lead Breaker Juliette LaMontagne

Speaker Spotlight on Juliette LaMontagne: Breaking New Ground

The Breaker model of teaching and learning takes its lead from designers and entrepreneurs because these methods and mindsets help young people create value for themselves, for organizations, and for the world. Each short-term project answers a different challenge, convenes a unique set of collaborators and industry professionals, and results in viable business solutions. LaMontagne will discuss Breaker's most recent challenge, The Future of Stuff - a collaboration with the d.school at Stanford that tested a hybrid (online/offline) version of Breaker's design-driven model.

Speaker Spotlight on Doug Powell: Social Design - Where Do We Go From Here?

How does a designer who has been self employed for his entire career enter a new chapter, with a new employer, in a new city? Moreover, where does his passion for design-driven social change fit into this new experience? Doug Powell will tell the story of his life and career transition and connect this all to the emerging practice of design-driven social change.

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