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Sustainable living, miniaturized

Work & Lifestyle

One day, many new full-sized homes may resemble the Power House. The USD 149.95 miniature model from science-kit distributor Thames & Kosmos comes with a working green house, solar panels, a wind mill and a desalinization system. The kit’s aim: teach children what it’s like to live off the grid, and get them (and their parents) to “consider a life without fossil fuel.” To make the experience more realistic, the user manual incorporates a storyline about high-tech pioneers inhabiting a small island who must make use of limited resources to survive. The 70 experiments and 20 building projects that form part of the kit mimic the tasks the kit’s fictional pioneers must perform. As environmental awareness becomes a dominant theme, it’s no surprise that green-tech learning toys such as the Power House are emerging. One popular example: in 2006, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, a Singapore-based maker of hydrogen fuel cells for consumer products, debuted the USD 115 H-racer, a fuel-cell powered toy car that comes with a solar-powered hydrogen generating station and needs only water to run. The H-racer won kudos from Time and BusinessWeek, and spawned a number of competitors. Does that mean there’s a major entrepreneurial opportunity here? Science kits will always occupy a niche within the toy industry, and those demonstrating alternative fuels and other eco-friendly technologies could stake a place alongside the rockets, microscopes and chemistry sets that are the mainstay of that market. That said, designing and manufacturing kits like the Power House or H-racer requires considerable technical know-how, not to mention capital. Which makes wholesaling or online and mail-order retailing a faster and less costly alternative to profitability. Another opportunity: move away from the kits and focus on pre-fab (doll) houses that demonstrate green technology without requiring painstaking assembly by their junior owners. Case in point: Thames & Kosmos started selling a build-your-own fuel cell car kit in 2003, but it received just a fraction of the attention that was lavished on the H-racer. Get started now to prepare for Christmas 2008!

Email: products@thamesandkosmos.com

Website: www.thamesandkosmos.com

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