Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

We’ve featured several concepts that promote acts of kindness, including KIND Snacks’ series of KINDED cards. For those not yet convinced, comes yet another spotting: California-based Boom Boom! Cards. Named for the karmic notion that every good deed comes back to its performer, boomerang-style, Boom Boom! Cards exist to inspire altruism. Available in packs of 26, the artistically designed cards each specify a particular act of kindness. It might be something as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” in every interaction over the course of a day, or it might be something more tangible, like buying a stranger a cup of coffee. There’s also a pack aimed at teens that focuses on family, friends and school. Either way, users begin by registering their deck and performing the specified kind acts, one at a time. Each time they do, they give the card away to someone else and then write about their experience on the Boom Boom! website. Users can upload photos and video to help tell their story, and the site’s mapping feature allows them to follow each card and see where their kindness spreads. Since the site’s launch into beta almost a year ago, more than 2,600 “agents of altruism” have joined what the company calls “the uprising of guerrilla goodness.” Each deck of Boom Boom! Cards is priced at USD 9.99; of that price, 5 percent is donated to iSpot Compassion and 5 percent goes to the charity of the purchaser’s choice. Boom Boom! Cards are currently available both online and from select California and Minnesota retailers. Time to start proving that virtue really is its own reward! 😉 (Related: Online game focuses on real-world kindnessClothing brand asks its wearers to be kindRandom acts of kindness for Hyatt’s most loyal guests.) Spotted by: Michael Corrales Charcoal lighter fluid is responsible for the release of some 14,500 tons of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere in the US each year, according to the EPA, which is one of the reasons there’s growing interest in charcoal alternatives like Sologear’s uGO FlameDisk. For those too attached to that authentic charcoal flavour, however, there’s now a chemical-free, eco-minded option. One Light Charcoal is a single-use charcoal bag featuring an internal chimney that uses air rather than harmful accelerants to ignite and roast the charcoal. No lighter fluid is added; rather, the consumer simply opens the bag, lights the long-stem match provided and places it in the chimney. The bag then burns from the inside out, allowing the charcoal to roast before the bag itself burns off, leaving only a pyramid of red-hot coals. The brain child of Texas-based Innovative Barbecue Solutions, One Light Charcoal is priced at about USD 3.50 per three-pound bag and sold through stores including HEB, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. Retailers in other parts of the world: one to add to your outdoor grilling section? Spotted by: Shelly Wares Opportunity awaits those who can make consumers’ lives easier, as countless innovations prove every day. Take choosing a wine. We’ve already seen several efforts to simplify the process of finding a good one for drinking—including, among many other approaches, a classification system that uses colours and numbers—and now California-based Académie Culinary Wines aims to do the same for wines that will be used in cooking. Académie wines are sourced directly from California’s premier wine regions. With the help of gourmet chefs, the company has developed a line including four blends that are designed to make culinary creations the best they can possibly be. Blend #1, for example, is designed for use in red sauces and meat dishes. Blend #2, meanwhile, targets seafood, poultry and pork. Blend #3 aims to complement beef and poultry marinades, while Blend #4 is for game bird, fish and lamb. All Académie wines are highly suitable for drinking as well, the company says, and are packaged in a convenient, waste-proof 375mL size that’s still ample for tasting while the cooking proceeds. To facilitate the culinary magic, the Académie site includes a variety of recipes geared toward each of the wines in its line. Available online and from select California retailers, Académie wines come in single 375mL bottles for USD 7.99 each or sampler packs of four for USD 28.76. Shipping is currently available only within California; one to partner with and bring to the rest of the cooking world? (Related: Wine tasting packs feature four mini samplesWine search engine uses animation to visualize aromasModern wine paired with ancient Roman cuisineSommelier, go away: food pairing made easy.) In this era of mass-customisation, consumers increasingly expect to be able to get exactly what they want, when they want it. Since discontinued products sometimes fall on that list, we’re starting to see manufacturers make such goods available once again. Lush was one example we wrote about back in 2008, and now Body Shop has launched an effort along very similar lines. Through its new Originals line, eco-minded beauty purveyor Body Shop—now part of L’Oréal—has brought back a collection of best-sellers from its early days. Starting in October, classics such as Dewberry Shower gel, Banana Shampoo and Carrot Moisturiser—all popular during the 1980s, and frequently requested since then—have been made available once again. To celebrate the products’ return, Body Shop is holding a promotion whereby consumers who vote for their favourite product in the line by Jan. 31 can win a year’s supply of it, or 12 bottles. Consumers can also request that additional products be brought back; those with enough demand will be added to the Originals line. A YouTube video explains the new campaign. Lesson to be learned? Just as consumers can help design and refine new products, so they can tell you when an old product has the potential for new life. Rather than always scrambling for something new, your next success may lie in the annals of time. 🙂 Spotted by: Cas Stevenson Much the way NeighborGoods lets consumers save and earn money by sharing tools, ladders and other household equipment, so RelayRides enables them to do likewise with their underused cars. Serving as a sort of community-run Zipcar, RelayRides bills itself as the first person-to-person car-sharing marketplace. Launching soon in the Baltimore area, the site allows people with cars to earn money by renting them out to people who don’t have cars of their own. Car owners begin by registering with RelayRides, which then arranges for a certified mechanic to install a device in the car that will allow authorized renters to access it without having to be given keys. It also establishes an insurance policy to cover renters during the rental period. Next, owners set the car’s rental price, along with where the car will be rented and when it is usually available. Renters can then reserve the vehicle by the hour or day within the owner-set schedule. RelayRides screens the driving record of every renter; it also promises to take care of owners in the event of any loss. A renter rating system, meanwhile, lets owners provide their own evaluations. With suggested hourly rates of between USD 6 and USD 12—covering 20 miles per reserved hour or 160 miles per day along with gas and insurance—owners can earn as much as USD 8,000 per year by renting out their cars for just 20 hours a week, RelayRides says. Every shared car replaces 14 to 18 vehicles on the road, RelayRides says, so the benefits are obvious not just for renters and owners (a.k.a. sellsumers), but also for the planet, which gets a much-needed break. RelayRides is already planning to expand to other U.S. cities following its Baltimore launch—one to get in on early in your neck of the resource-sharing woods…? (Related: Parking operator launches car-sharing serviceBike-sharing comes to AsiaMore social ride sharing.) Spotted by: Michael Corrales Professionally made desserts are all very well, but for true bake-it-yourself types, there’s nothing like a homemade confection. Much the way Sprinkles Cupcakes mixes aim to give baking enthusiasts a way to emulate professional results in their own kitchens, so Ticings allow them to add a dash of photographic-quality art. Ticings are edible images that can be applied to cakes, cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Users need only peel them from their paper backing and then press them onto a baked confection. Whereas some baking embellishments drag when cut, Ticings merge with soft frosting to create edible art that creates no resistance for the knife. Launched last month, the US-made decorations—which are FDA approved, kosher certified and gluten free—are available from LA-based Ticings in sheets of 12 2.25-inch images for USD 15.95 or 35 1.25-inch images for USD 22.95. Themes include birthdays, weddings and seasonal motifs; shipping is available only within the continental US. Coming soon from the company are gourmet artisan sprinkles. Giving crafty consumers yet another way to make it themselves—upgraded to help them compete with the professionals—Ticings will soon also be available through a bakery in northern California. Other gourmet retailers around the world: time to add yourself to that list? (Related: Upscale takeaway meets onsite cooking schoolShirt sold out? Make it yourselfDIY wedding rings.) Spotted by: Lara McCulloch We’ve written about a few different efforts to help disadvantaged people in Africa by providing refurbished second-hand bikes from the developed world. Unlike such initiatives from Baisikeli and Bikes for Africa, however, Worldbike designs and distributes brand-new bicycles that are inexpensive and built specifically to withstand harsh rural conditions. California-based Worldbike’s bicycles are designed to handle large loads, rough terrain and inclement weather. They’re configured to be not only affordable, but also maintained and repaired locally. Through partnerships with international and local agencies, private companies, foundations and NGOs, Worldbike even helps arrange microcredit financing for bike purchases and supplement sales with support from funders and private donors. Its bikes have already been brought to Cuba, Mexico, Rwanda, Senegal and Thailand, among other areas. However, as the company also notes, “the same cargo bike we deliver to rural Africa also turns heads on the streets of Seattle.” An official US version of the bike is now being configured, and proceeds from all purchases will help support bike distribution efforts in Kenya. A shining example of what our sister site calls the functionall trend, Worldbike has already attracted funding and partnerships with companies and foundations around the world—time to add your brand to that list? Alternatively, how about brainstorming some functionall offerings of your own…? (Related: Single-use toilet bag turns human waste into fertilizerWater bottle’s plunger-style filter purifies instantly.) Spotted by:’s monthly trend briefing Convincing consumers to recycle their old electronics is challenging enough in its own right, but when it comes to sex toys, the potential embarrassment could be virtually prohibitive. Aiming to keep the devices it sells out of landfills, UK retailer LoveHoney encourages customers to send them back for recycling at the end of their useful life in exchange for a generous discount on a new, updated version. Back in 2007 the EU began requiring that consumers dispose of waste electrical equipment properly. Soon afterwards, LoveHoney launched Rabbit Amnesty, its own program for recycling its popular Rabbit vibrators. Now, owners of the devices can send their outdated or overused vibrators to the company and receive a half-price Rabbit vibrator from the LoveHoney range. The second-hand toys are then delivered to a designated collection facility, where they are recycled and treated in an ecologically sound manner. LoveHoney also donates GBP 1 to The World Land Trust for each Rabbit that gets sent back. How to turn lemons into lemonade? Use them to create a competitive advantage that increases future sales and sets your company apart. Then take a long, slow sip of sweet success! 😉 (Related: An ATM for recycling consumer electronicsRetailers recycle customers’ used clothes‘Sex map’ reveals erotic-spending trends by city.) Spotted by: Susan Johnston With so many innovative new materials being launched every year — take Ecovative’s sustainable styrofoam substitute, for example—it would be difficult for any product designer or manufacturer to be aware of them all as they create their own new products. That’s where Material Short Stories comes in. The company offers a service-cum-publication geared toward manufacturers, agencies and designers that suggests five new materials that could be incorporated in any new product design. Clients begin by sending German Material Short Stories a visual of their product or concept via e-mail. The company then brainstorms on the concept and its user experience, factoring in branding and sustainability issues, and comes up with a list of new materials that could make sense. From there, it zeroes in on five innovative materials that could best be used to improve the product concept, and it sketches and summarizes those—including references and design recommendations—in a neat little booklet. Within a few days, clients get that booklet sent to them along with a 1-gigabyte USB card including a digital summary for use in presentations. The cost is EUR 600 plus VAT and shipping. Given all the sustainability-related innovation these days, there will clearly be increasing need for someone to help connect those on the product side with the fast-changing world of materials. One to emulate on a niche basis—or, to tap for help with your own next design? (Related: Library of green building materials.) Spotted by: Cagla Pakel