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


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.


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)


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.



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


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.


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


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:


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


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)


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:


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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?


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


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:


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


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].



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


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.


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


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.


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.


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



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.


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


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)


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.




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


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:




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


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.


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 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.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  11 Sep 2013  |  Comments (9)


In "How Furniture Design Affects Firefighting, we looked at how the spec'ing out of particular materials can cause headaches for firefighters. Now comes news of another unforeseen troublemaker in the battle to extinguish blazes: Solar panels.

Solar panels of course generate electricity, and are located on roofs. The problem is that roofs are where firefighters will typically "vent" a burning building, to release some air pressure on the fire. But smashing or cutting the holes required for venting presents an issue as firefighters can suddenly be exposed to live electricity, even at nighttime or in the absence of sunlight, from a cut solar panel. If the roof in question is metal, you've now got a live roof covered in human beings now exposed to double jeopardy.

Last week, firefighters in New Jersey arrived at the scene of a burning warehouse. Stymied by the solar panels on the roof, the building continued to burn for 29 hours while firefighters were forced to improvise. According to an article on that blaze in Reuters,

Even when systems are equipped with shutoffs, any light can keep panels and their wires energized, [Consumer Safety Director for Underwriters Laboratories, John] Drengenberg said....Experiments, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, have shown that the light emitted by fire equipment can generate enough electricity in the panels that a firefighter who inadvertently touches an energized wire might not be able to let go, a phenomenon known as "lock on."

What is the solution? Solar panels are only increasing in popularity and are arguably a very important key to sustainable living. And if we could figure out how to universally prevent fires, it would already be on the table. In the meantime, designers and engineers are going to have to work out some safety factors, and more importantly, begin a comprehensive education program with emergency personnel for how to safely destroy their product.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   3 Sep 2013  |  Comments (1)


This is one of the more fascinating experiments in small-space living that we've ever seen. Seattle-based engineer Steve Sauer wanted to see if he could turn a 182-square-foot storage unit with a single window into a liveable space, and he then decided to build it himself. Not only do we feel he's succeeded admirably, we're not sure which we admire more: Sauer's incredibly creative use of multi-level space, his unwillingness to compromise on materials, his self-machined plumbing, his IKEA-hacked surfaces... the list goes on.

The design of this space and its various features would be impossible to explain through still photographs, so thankfully there's video. Check out how bike-nut Sauer fit multiple bikes inside, peep his in-floor soaking tub, the ingenious kitchen-bin shower cubbies, and the bike shift lever in the showerhead mount. Sauer earns his living designing aircraft interiors for Boeing, but we wish he'd spend more time designing spaces down here on the ground.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   6 Aug 2013  |  Comments (8)


A website called Plastic Bag Ban Report documents that trend (encompassing paper bags, too) with a grinding regularity. Last month, L.A.'s City Council voted "No store shall provide a plastic or paper single-use carryout bag to a customer." This month, Santa Fe got plastic bags banned and attached a fee to paper bags. Now Laredo, Texas and Vail, Colorado are mulling over similar policies.

Just yesterday, an interesting development in recycling—one that you're bound to have mixed feelings about—as brought to our attention. As more individual businesses and municipalities are starting to ban both paper and plastic bags, or impose fees to discourage their use, it's pissing off a certain group of people. No, not consumers. Recyclers.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, or ISRI, yesterday fired a blast out of their e-mail gun stating "Policymakers are banning bags and creating fees without considering the real impact on recycling, and the recycling industry... Rather than bans and fees that take away jobs and increase costs to consumers, policy makers should take advantage of the great economic and environmental opportunities associated with responsibly recycling these bags." They followed this up with some surprising statistics:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   1 Aug 2013  |  Comments (2)


In an earlier post, I commented on how Japanese children at the school where I worked were taught to pitch in with recycling. But I failed to mention a rather strange counterpoint, emblematic of that country's bewildering contradictions: One day a horrific smell wafted over the campus. I went outside to investigate, and discovered that a farmer in the lot adjacent to the school was burning an enormous pile of tires. The wind carried the vile, black smoke all over the school and the playing grounds. I asked a teacher about this and he shrugged. "There is no place to put them," he said.

I've since learned tires can of course be re-molded and re-treaded. But I had no idea how labor- and energy-intensive it was until I saw this video. Those of you who are into molding will enjoy seeing how the mold comes apart/together around 3:15. I also dug watching how they remove the flashing, and that inflatable thingy that serves as the mold's core:

The amount of man-hours that goes into each tire, not to mention the one-hour-plus molding time, is staggering. But what I found most surprising was that despite all of that energy burned, re-molding is still 30 to 60% cheaper than creating the tire from scratch.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Jul 2013  |  Comments (6)


There's a reason demolitionists use explosive charges to take buildings down: Abject destruction is a relatively quick way to dismantle rebar-reinforced concrete. But boy does it create one helluva mess to clean up:

Smaller-scale demolition techniques require massive machinery to pulverize buildings chunk by chunk, while workers spray the destruction with a steady stream of water to keep the dust down. The resultant mess is then carted off, load by load, to landfill or a recycling center tasked with the difficult chore of separating metal rebar from the concrete fragments.

Look no further than the 2013 IDEA Winners for a better building demolition concept.


Omer Haciomeroglu, from Sweden's Umea Institute of Design, won Gold in the Student Designs category for his ERO Concrete Recycling Robot. Haciomeroglu's excellent concept not only takes buildings down in an energy-efficient way, but it systematically recycles as it goes along. "In order to overcome later separation and ease the transport of materials," writes Haciomeroglu, "the process had to start with separation on the spot. It was a challenge to switch from brutal pulverizing to smart deconstruction."



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   1 Jul 2013  |  Comments (4)


Canadian citizen Ann Makosinski has been interested in alternative energy sources for at least four years. Which is to say, since the sixth grade. Fifteen-year-old Makosinski, now in the tenth grade, has just become one of 15 finalists in the 2013 Google Science Fair competition, as she's invented an LED flashlight powered by nothing more than the heat from your hands.

Most impressively, she built it out of parts she ordered on eBay and bought at Home Depot, with the exception of an aluminum tube her father acquired from a university machine shop. Check it out:

Sure, it might not be bright enough to dazzle a helicopter, but the fact that it requires zero batteries, and that Makosinski was able to compose a working prototype for just $26 Canadian, indicates she's onto something. Can't wait to see what her senior year project is!

Via CBC News

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Jun 2013  |  Comments (4)


It's strange that what we in developed nations think of as a recreational activites, like camping and/or grilling, mimic the real-world living conditions of those in developing nations. But that can lead to some interesting design crossovers. A good case in point is the SolSource, a solar cooking grill originally designed and tested with nomads living on the Himalayan Plateau, where there isn't a lot of firewood, fuel-gathering is a chore, and the burning produces unhealthy smoke.


Having proven its mettle under rugged real-world conditions, the SolSource is now making its way to the rest of us via Kickstarter.

Everyday, SolSource cooks food for large Himalayan families. It withstands sand storms, wind, snow, and -40 degree temperatures. We've used it around the world, from grilling Kobe beef on the streets of Japan to making popcorn on the Mall in Washington, DC. Just point it towards the sun and start cooking. As long as you can see your shadow, you are good to go!

The SolSource was designed by One Earth Designs, a San-Francisco-based outfit "dedicated to bringing better energy options to people around the world." To that end company founders Scot Frank and Catlin Powers have been working with rural communities in the Himalayas since 2007, and they formed the company last year to design clean energy technologies.


Following the relatively quick success of the SolSource, the company—which has since expanded to 18 employees covering R&D, Sales & Marketing, Business & Operations, Admin and H&R—went to Kickstarter to dig up $43,000 for tooling and a proper production line.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 May 2013  |  Comments (4)


For those of us living in the developed world, the simple act of cooking doesn't require much: You turn on the stove, and leave it on for as long as it takes to cook whatever you're preparing. But for those in developing nations, simply leaving a pot of anything on the boil can lead to disasters both ecological and humanitarian.

In developing countries, the basic need to feed a family has huge challenges: Staple diets require long cooking times, yet there is little access to energy and water. Lack of clean fuel means using charcoal or tree-wood for cooking. Cooking over a charcoal or wood fire means smoke inhalation. Little income to afford charcoal means cutting down trees. Cutting down trees results in deforestation as communities quickly use the tree wood around them, digging up the roots when desperate. Deforestation leads to foraging further afield, which is done by women and also girls, often taken out of school. Foraging as far as 5-10 km per day leaves women open to violence. Poverty will not end if girls don't have time for school, women spend 4-6 hours of their day cooking, and the environment is ravaged.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 May 2013  |  Comments (2)


As you might remember from earlier posts like this one or this one, an intense amount of woodworking used to go into furniture designed to hold sewing machines. But these beautiful cabinet-desks are now largely unneeded, and it is not uncommon for sewing machine collectors to literally break these things up and use them as firewood.

A similar object with a similar problem is the stand-up piano. Once the proud, previously-expensive possession of many a pre-radio music-loving family, these are now literally being given away on Craigslist. And after reading an article about how one Oregon furnituremaker was attempting to repurpose them, Instructables user phish814 got an idea of his own. "This project," he explains, "solves the dilemma of not having adequate workspace in an apartment or other venue in which an unsightly workbench would look out of place."