Top 10 ideas from Eco and Sustainability over the last 12 months
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We’ve picked out our top ten Eco & Sustainability articles from the last 12 months on Springwise. We hope that the ideas listed below provide entrepreneurs with plenty of inspiration and spark even more innovative efforts in the future!
1. Intelligent thermostat learns from user behavior
Encouraging homeowners to reduce their energy usage by remembering to switch off appliances is one way campaigners have sought to tackle climate change. However, former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers developed Nest instead, a thermostat that ‘learns’ its users’ rituals and does the work for them. Initially programmed like a traditional thermostat, the Nest device records usage patterns and makes changes to provide the optimum heating program to save energy. Its Auto-Away feature also ensures the building isn’t being heated when no-one is home and users can view their Energy History on its LED display.
2. ‘Film farming’ uses no soil and just one-tenth the water
Growing produce in areas which have limited vital natural resources such as water is a problem calling out for solutions, and one system that is helping the cause is Agricel, a farming system using a film-like material that uses no soil and reduces the amount of water needed by 90 per cent. The material features a hydromembrane surface containing water-soluble polymer and hydrogel, which plant roots use to gain nutrients. The system also means that pesticides are not needed as bacteria and viruses cannot get through the film. Agricel offers a cheap alternative to hydroponic growing – vital for those in poorer economies – and also, according to the company, offers a return on investment of between 40 and 70 percent.
3. Mobile app adds an element of gaming to home energy metering
Saving energy at home might feel like a thankless task at times. Making the process a bit more fun, Germany’s GreenPocket smartphone app turns energy saving into a competition among friends, enabling Facebook users to share and compare their consumption statistics with their online contacts, with push notifications informing consumers as to how well they are doing compared with their friends in weekly energy efficiency contests. We saw a number of energy use trackers over the past 12 months – such as the Changers Starter Kit and GreenCharge – but GreenPocket has gone the extra mile by gamifiying eco-living, pushing players to save even more energy.
4. Cardboard packaging includes directions for turning it into something new
Just as ‘cradle to cradle’ design has led manufacturers to think about how they can ensure component materials can become something new once they’ve out-lived their initial use, Dutch baby stroller company Joolz has hit upon a way to encourage customers to turn cardboard packaging into a new item. From the large boxes that come with their strollers down to the smaller ones that protect baby accessories, the company has added printed directions inside each, instructing customers on how to make useable chairs, birdhouses and light bulb holders using just the cardboard packaging.
5. Software funds tree planting as users print
Environmental offsetting has become a popular way to stay green in the past decade. Combining the practice with a ‘click and give’ model – enabling internet surfers to help a cause simply by using a particular service – former student Joe Miller set up Print A Forest, a downloadable application that acts as a printing program on the user’s computer. Printing documents through the app places a branded message in the footer of the page, and Print A Forest then sends a portion of the money received from the advertiser to the Plant a Billion Trees campaign, which plants one tree for every US dollar received. Print A Forest helps those with large printing jobs to replenish the very resource they are using up.
6. In India, home solar energy on a pay-as-you-go plan
Access to affordable electricity, or indeed any electricity at all, can be a rarity in poor areas of India. With this in mind, Simpa introduced solar energy using a pay-as-you-go model which allows users to only pay for as much energy as they need, at an affordable price. Customers make a small initial down payment for a solar energy system and then pre-pay for the service. The process is simplified by allowing users to top-up on energy through their mobile phones. What’s more, each payment made also counts towards the final purchase price. Once fully paid, the system produces clean energy, free and clear for the rest of the system’s expected 10-year useful life.
7. Wood stoves convert waste heat into electricity for charging small devices
BioLite has created a sleek and compact stove that saves substantial amounts of energy, while simultaneously charging small electronic devices such as a mobile phone or iPod. The BioLite Stove emits only a fraction of the smoke of a traditional wood fire and reuses any excess energy through its device-charging function. Alongside the BioLite stove the company has also released a HomeStove, marketed at the three billion people in the world who use open fires to cook every day meals. Similar to the BioLite stove it emits considerably less carbon monoxide and can charge devices. These inventions could be an exciting innovation in parts of the world with limited access to electricity.
8. Minimalist 10-piece wardrobe designed to span a year
In an effort to move away from disposable fashion into more sustainable practices, Malaysian label ULTRA introduced a minimalist wardrobe consisting of just 10 items intended to be worn over 12 months. Sold as a package, all the items are made using sustainable materials — including organic cotton and recyclable materials. Many of the items can also double up, so a 3-in-1 coat can transform into a shirt or a skirt. At the end of the year it’s possible to return the collection and receive 10 new upcycled items in exchange.
9. Airborne windmills produce fifty percent more energy
We’d already been impressed by Windcentrale’s crowdfunded windmill in Holland when we came across another ingenious innovation to harness wind power. Makani Power’s airborne windmill stays below the flight paths of aeroplanes and above the altitude of bird flight. The higher the altitude the stronger the wind, so these flying windmills can capture more power than the land-based version, and because it’s mobile it can serve a wider area.
10. App connects consumers with discounts to reduce food waste
Zéro Gâchis aims to provide a platform for businesses to let consumers know in real-time when they have food reaching expiration, which customers can then purchase at discounted prices. The app also uses geo-location capabilities on customers’ smartphones to target the discounts towards those shoppers who are already in the area. What’s more, buyers will be able to gain points on the site each time they take advantage of discounts, which can be converted into cash directed towards food waste charities such as Restos du Coeur or Banque Alimentaire.
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