Underground the city of London are eight massive bomb shelters like the one pictured above that have been empty or used as document storage for more than 50 years. Now, one of them is being transformed into a subterranean farm. The farming group, called Zero Carbon Food, based their system on hydroponics and LED light powered by wind-generated electricity.
"When I first met these guys I thought they were absolutely crazy, but when I visited the tunnels and sampled the delicious produce they are already growing down there I was blown away," says two Michelin star chef Michel Roux Jr.
IKEA has now started selling solar panels in the UK. According the Associated Press, "a standard, all-black 3.36 kilowatt system for a semi-detached home will cost 5,700 British pounds ($9,200) and will include an in-store consultation and design service as well as installation, maintenance and energy monitoring service." Feel free to suggest funny faux-Swedish product names in the comments.
The Sun Hive is a hanging honeybee hive designed by Günther Mancke and which is growing in popularity in the UK and elsewhere. It was designed around the needs of pollinating bees and colony health and preferences, and not around prioritizing honey production. As such, it's thought to be much better for sustaining bee populations. It's also quite beautiful.
There's also a Sun Hive book, that you can read or download (4.5Mb), and which gives the background on natural beekeeping and instructions on how to construct one.
Architect/developer Sebastian Mariscal designed and is expecting to build a 44-unit apartment building in densely-populated Boston where most of the space you'd expect to be used for parking spots is instead given over to a variety of gardens. There's a 7,000 public garden on the ground level and a roof that's 70 percent dedicated to community gardening. Meanwhile, each living unit includes a 144 square foot "outdoor room… full of vegetation."
While Mariscal's original design only had six parking spaces, meant for rentals, and he only planned to rent to tenants who didn't own cars, the community was concerned that tenants would own cars anyway and park them on the street. So the architect added 35 spots to his plans and has apparently received preliminary approval to build from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. (Universal Hub, thanks Lis Riba!)
We review a lot of popular science books around here, but Sustainable Materials (like Sustainable Energy) is a popular engineering text, a rare and wonderful kind of book. Sustainable Materials is an engineer's audit of the materials that our world is made of, the processes by which those materials are extracted, refined, used, recycled and disposed of, and the theoretical and practical efficiencies that we could, as a society, realize.
Allwood and Cullen write about engineering with the elegance of the best pop-science writers -- say, James Gleick or Rebecca Skloot -- but while science is never far from their work, their focus is on engineering. They render lucid and comprehensible the processes and calculations needed to make things and improve things, touching on chemistry, physics, materials science, economics and logistics without slowing down or losing the reader.
The authors quickly demonstrate that any effort to improve the sustainability of our materials usage must focus on steel and aluminum, first because of the prominence of these materials in our construction and fabrication, and second because they are characteristic microcosms of our other material usage, and what works for them will be generalizable to other materials.
From there, the book progresses to a fascinating primer on the processes associated with these metals, from ore to finished product and back through recycling, and the history of efficiency gains in these processes, and the theoretical limits on efficiency at each stage. Lavishly illustrated and superbly organized, this section and the ones that follow it are a crash course in the invisible energy embodied in the bones of our built up world.
But the primary work of the book is to look at how small (and large) changes in our society and business could make important gains in the sustainability of our material use, an important subject as developing nations start to copy the rich world's insatiable appetite for material goods and titanic cities.
Ikea has announced a new cardboard shipping pallet, which uses fiendishly clever folding to give a loading capacity of 1,650 lbs: "As Ikea uses some 10 million pallets a year, if the experiment is a success it's a good bet that other retail giants will take notice. But the thing that has analysts skeptical is that the pallets can only be used once."
It's time again for Boing Boing's guide the charities we support in our annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The EFF's mission has never been more important: as laws like SOPA are rammed through Congress, as bloggers around the world are arrested and tortured with the collusion of American network-surveillance companies, and as the FBI's unconstitutional, warrantless use of surveillance technology like GPS bugs comes to light, EFF is poised to be center-stage in the fight for a free and open world with a free and open Internet. —CD
Creative Commons has permeated my life in a thousand ways -- on Boing
Boing and in my writing, Creative Commons is responsible for how I get
the job done and how I get paid for it. CC's advocacy of a nuanced,
intelligent position on creativity and sharing changes the lives of
creators, educators, scientists, scholars, and kids, all over the world. —CD
I recently spotted this Seedbombs vending machine in Marin. Each bomb -- a little nugget of clay, compost, and seeds -- was 50 cents. It led me to look into the interesting history of "seed bombing." From Wikipedia:
The term "seed grenade" was first used by Liz Christy in 1973 when she started the "Green Guerrillas". The first seed grenades were made from condoms filled with local wildflower seeds, water and fertilizer. They were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the guerrilla gardening movement...
The earliest records of aerial reforestation date back from 1930. In this period, planes were used to distribute seeds over certain inaccessible mountains in Honolulu after forest fires.
Seed bombing is also widely used in Africa; where they are put in barren or simply grassy areas. With technology expanding, it is now placed in a biodegradable container and "bombed" grenade-style onto the land. As the sprout grows, the container biodegrades and the plant grows. It is usually done as a large-scale project with hundreds dropped in a single area at any one time. Therefore, a barren land can be turned into a garden in a little over a month.
I spotted this wonderful display of eggshell planters at the mighty Dynamo Donuts in San Francisco's Mission District. (Note the fresh-from-the-fryer bacon maple apple donuts in the upper left.) Instructables has a how-to on making your own "eggshell seed starters."
Just wanted to showcase this marvelous comic by Stuart McMillen (the cover of which you see above and is a nice nod to Hergé). It's called "St. Matthew Island" and asks: "What happens when you introduce 29 reindeer to an isolated island of untouched natural resources?"
As a parable (humans being humans, and reindeer being reindeer), it does a great job of gently and effectively illustrating the issue of over consumption .
St Matthew Island by Stuart McMillen
Earlier this year, Los Angeles hosted it's first CicLAvia (blogged here previously)— an event which closed off 7.5 miles of city streets to cars for a full day allowing cyclists and pedestrians full use of the roadways. It was a huge success with over 100,000 residents showing up on 2 wheels rather than 4. Yes, this happened in Los Angeles, dare I say one of the most "car-positive" cities in the world. The organizers are working on plans for the next CicLAvia for 2011 and have teamed up with Kickstarter to help raise some funds. They are hoping to bring in $5K, and have a bit over $1K right now. I just donated because I think it's a super worthwhile cause, and because I ride my bike in LA on the streets all the time anyway and being able to do it every once and a while without worrying about getting run over is awesome.
Do you have an innovative project that you think is "green" or one you've been thinking about starting? That word green gets tossed around a lot. Do you think others would find your project "environmentally-friendly," a worthwhile solution to today's environmental problems? Does it promote conservation? Appropriate use of technology? Let's find out. MAKE is running a Green Project Contest, as part of GE's ecomagination. Enter your project now for a chance to win a trip for two to a Maker Faire of your choice (Bay Area, Detroit, New York) in 2011!
2. Encourage your readers, family and friends, and your social network to vote for your project!
3. Posts that get lots of votes, besides be eligible for prizes, will also draw the attention of MAKE editors. We’ll start doing blog posts, and maybe even articles in the magazine, about some of the more popular projects.
To help inspire you, we're putting together a series of videos on Maker Pioneers who are doing work we think is worth of the tag "green". The first video is with Saul Griffith, talking about his Onya Cycles business.
As the Chilean Miner telenovelacontinues today, with mining company execs and politicians now transforming a barely-averted catastrophe into a publicity stunt: here's timely look back at some mid-century American mining industry propaganda in the form of a weird comic book unearthed by Ethan Persoff.
"With an environmental message!," says Ethan— "Specifically how strip mines are good for clearing landscape of pesky earth to make way for park benches and manufactured fishing (check out the very funny Sportsman's paradise joke on page 11).
If you'd told me a year ago that the City of Los Angeles would close off almost 8 miles of primary city streets to let cyclists have free rein for a day I never would have believed it. If I hadn't seen it actually happen with my own eyes yesterday, I'd still be suspicious. But it's true: thanks to the amazing efforts of the die-hard volunteers behind the project, yesterday the first ever CycLAvia (a riff on the South American Ciclovía idea) took place and some 100,000 residents took to their bikes and got a glimpse of what the city might be like if at least some parts of it were car-free.
As an avid cyclist living in LA, I've long said this is an amazing city to bike in and that it takes on a whole new life when you see it from a bicycle. But most often the reaction I get from non-cyclists is that I must be crazy to ride a bike in LA. I'm not, and judging by the photos on flickr and reactions on twitter a ton of people now see the city a little differently. With any luck this is just the first of many upcoming bike-friendly events in the city. I know I can't wait to see where this leads! (Follow @Cyclavia for future details)
Urban foragers across the US are picking fiddlehead ferns, plums from public trees, and even edible flowers sprouting from sidewalk cracks. Researchers from the Institute for Culture and Ecology studied the old but growing practice, focusing on several dozen Seattle foragers. From National Geographic:
This tiny group of foragers--just a small percentage of the people in Seattle who gather wild plants--together picks a whopping 250 different species of plants, year-round. Some have been gathering in Seattle for over 60 years. Most act as caretakers for their favorite spots, which they return to year after year.
Foraging can be a risky business: in some municipalities, it's not allowed in public parks. Earlier this year, the New York Times' urban foraging columnist suggested that would-be gatherers pick day lily shoots from Central Park; the Times had to quickly post a clarification that picking plants from city parks was against the law.
"If 15 people decide to go harvest day lilies to stir-fry that night, you could wipe out the entire population of day lilies around the Central Park reservoir," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told the Times.
There's another risk: chemicals. "Most of the foragers we have talked to are expressing concerns about toxicity," Poe said. Public park managers aren't necessarily interested in preserving the edibility of the wild things that grow there--don't even start on whatever might grow in a median or alley. Park managers and city planners could make it easier for foragers, Poe suggested, by minimizing the chemicals sprayed or, at the very least, putting up signs to alert would-be foragers when pesticides are at their most potent.
Scientists studying the water surface near the BP rig explosion spotted relatively huge particles of sea snot, a mucus-like substance that phytoplankton produce when stressed. "It's possible that exposure to the Deepwater Horizon oil caused them to pump out more of the sticky stuff than usual." Sinking quickly en masse to the sea floor, the clumps of mucus may have temporarily wiped out the base of the food chain in the spill region. Adding oil to the snot makes marine mucilage, which can grow 100 mi. long.
Video: Samantha Pleet SS 2011, Starring Victoria Legrand, Directed by David Black.
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week might have a new location this year at Lincoln Center, but the freshest and most creative fashion presentations arguably were found off-site. A perfect example was Samantha Pleet's Spring/Summer 2011 presentation, which was part of the Greenshows downtown. A film created by Pleet's friend David Black featured BeachHouse singer Victoria Legrand as a star-crossed lover. The film and still images were projected onto the walls surrounding models styled by Christina Turner in jewelry by Bliss Lau and shoes designed specially for Pleet by Osborne.
Nothing about the clothing looked particularly eco-friendly, ethically sound or fair trade, but it was nice to know that fantastic design and styling can be all those things without screaming "green." To top off the evening, Pleet gathered friends and fans at the Classic Car Club, where she and I grabbed a seat in 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder for a quick interview...
David Kuria runs EcoTact Limited, an organization with a groundbreaking approach to a difficult issue. In many poor parts of Africa, basic sanitation is nonexistent, and open sewers drain untreated waste directly into the water supply, causing 80% of the disease.
Kuria quotes Gandhi: "Sanitation is more important than independence," adding, "We want to do a social transformation, where people don't think this is a toilet, where they think a toilet is a dirty place. So for us to change that community and social mentality of a toilet, then we want to put in more activities in the toilet. Then they start interacting with the facility not as a toilet, but more of a community convenient point."
Amenities include a small kiosk with snacks and personal items for sale. Kenyan comedian Makhoha Keya even worked up an act to make learning about basic sanitation entertaining. Ecotact provides safe drinking water at no cost, and the toilet usage fee is about five cents a day, usually recouped through fewer doctor visits and lost days of work.
You might have just driven home. When you filled your car with gasoline, most likely you didn't even see the fluid as it was pumped into your gas tank. Once home, you probably turned on some lights, some music, your computer, and maybe even heat, so you could read this web page. You can't see the power running through the electrical lines that lead to your light bulb, and you don't feel it, but you do enjoy the results. Our society has made energy invisible. This invisibility makes energy convenient to use -- and the modern age is arguably wonderful as a result -- but it also makes it easy to take it for granted. Here we try to make our appetite for energy visible.
Climate change is a phenomenon we now recognize as one of the most important challenges to ever confront humanity. Like energy use, it is also mostly invisible to us, and in two important ways. Firstly, the enormous volumes of green-house gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, CFC's etc, are quite literally invisible to our naked eyes. Secondly, the changes in climate progress so slowly that they seem invisible amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Because these consequences accumulate over decades, generations, and centuries, it is easy to not see them as pressing and urgent. Here we try to make visible these complicated and largely invisible things.
The global energy and climate conversation is about choices, both individual choices and collective choices. By choosing the amount and type of energy we consume, we are choosing the look and feel of our future. Everyone is involved in that choice. Don't be fooled: individual choices collectively have enormous effects. A large coal power plant has a power output of 1GW (GigaWatt) which is 1 billion (1 000 000 000) Watts. If 1 billion people reduced their power needs by just 1 watt ( About what is required to keep a compact fluorescent burning for just 1 hour a day), that's a coal fired power plant you don't need to build.
The Australian Koala Foundation reported this week that koala populations are declining because we humans continue to invade their habitats. Wildfires and global warming aren't helping, either. They could become extinct within a few decades. More: BBC, Reuters.
Ape Lad sez, "The bowling alley I once enjoyed as a child (in Riverside CA), is now furniture."
An abandoned bowling alley finds a second life in this beautiful series of furniture by LA-based designer/woodworker William Stranger. Crafted from reclaimed strips of wood salvaged from a local defunct Tava Lanes Bowling alley, the collection springs to life in a variety of forms including a series of wall hangings and a low coffee table.
Our friends at Good have a post up with striking images by photographer Mathieu Young. These photos were shot during harvest time (last year) in California's Mendocino County region, where an awful lot of marijuana is grown.
"On the one hand it seems like an illicit activity," Young told Good. "But on the other hand, you have a bunch of people who are living off the land, which is beautiful."
That's a lot of links, but they're there so you can go back and read page-by-page breakdowns of the mistakes and inaccuracies, by experts, if you want. I think that's important, because I know at least some of you are going to assume that any criticism of this book and its contents is all about some violation of pseudo-religious orthodoxy. I want you to be able to go see that this is about science. If you just want a quick summary, though, read on...