What if we could replace plastics and styrofoam with something much more sustainable? Something that wouldn’t fill our landfills, pollute our beaches, or float out into our ocean gyres?
Meet Eben Bayer, the co-founder of Ecovative Designs. In 2007, Bayer and co-founder Gavin McIntyre developed the idea of combining mycelium from growing mushrooms with local crop waste to make a compostable biomaterial. Their goal: use it for packaging, insulation, shoes, fiberboard for furniture, and other products, thereby reducing or replacing non-biodegradable synthetic materials and plastics that can leach chemicals.
Are mushrooms the new plastic?
To find out, watch this 2010 report that explores how mushroom packaging is made. For more information on what Ecovative is working on, read this article in The Guardian, watch Bayer present at TED, or watch Ecovative’s Sam Harrington present to NASA.
Then watch more videos on innovative ideas and sustainability (like the Moser Lamp!), learn how creativity works, and check out Minute Earth’s The Biggest Organism on Earth.
With three wheels, pneumatic motors, and driven by a joystick, this ladybug of a car is compelling for both its unusual form and its power source: compressed air. The AIRPod was developed as a sustainable, zero-emission solution for urban commuting, airport vehicles, messenger services, and more. Initially conceived of in 1991 and promised for production since 2000, the car is finally expected to be on sale for around 7,000 euros sometime in 2014. Via Core77:
One tank lasts over 125 miles (200 km) and takes only two minutes to fill up again at an average price of just one euro per fill.
Bonus: the eco-friendly engine technology can be built into boats, backup generators, farm machines, and more.
In the archives, more cars and more sustainability videos, including these two jaw-dropping favorites: an air-powered LEGO car, behind-the-scenes at the Tesla factory and the Moser Lamp.
Updated video link.
In the year 2020, seven of the largest mirrors on Earth — 20 tons each — will come together in a 22-story, rotating building located in the southern Atacama Desert of Chile. They will form the Giant Magellan Telescope, a feat of science, technology, engineering and math that will have ten times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.
In this video from July 2013, Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chairman GMT, and Dr. Pat McCarthy, Director GMT, explain the astounding challenge of creating this precise, powerful, and wondrous machine. Read more at Phys.org.
In the archives: more telescope-related vids.
In 2002, Brazilian engineer Alfredo Moser invented a simple way to bring the sun’s light indoors: fill a clear plastic 2 liter bottle with water and two capfuls of bleach, then make a hole in the roof and secure it with a waterproof sealant.
The result: 40 to 60 watts of free, natural light.
How does it work? The bleach keeps the water from turning green, and the water refracts sunlight. To see this innovative but simple invention in action, watch the the ecoideasnet video above (with captions on). Chilean Miguel Marchand helps to install the bottle lights, or Moser Lamps, in the home of a family that lives in the Andes.
Around 1.6 billion people — 25% of the Earth’s population — live without electricity, but with this simple idea, they can enjoy sustainable light in their home for free. Moser Lamps are becoming popular solutions in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Argentina, Fiji, and other countries, and give an incredibly useful second life to plastic bottles.
If you make a Moser Lamp, please contact us by twitter, facebook, or email to let us know!
h/t BBC News.
Related watching: La casa ecológica de botellas, and more videos about sustainability.
How Biomimicry is Inspiring Human Innovation:
…we human beings, who have been trying to make things for only the blink of an evolutionary eye, have a lot to learn from the long processes of natural selection, whether it’s how to make a wing more aerodynamic or a city more resilient or an electronic display more vibrant… one of the most often-cited examples is Velcro, which the Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral patented in 1955 after studying how burs stuck to his clothes…
And the butterflies?
More than a decade ago, an MIT grad named Mark Miles was dabbling in the field of micro-electromechanical and materials processing. As he paged through a science magazine, he was stopped by an article on how butterflies generate color in their wings. The brilliant iridescent blue of the various Morpho species, for example, comes not from pigment, but from “structural color.” Those wings harbor a nanoscale assemblage of shingled plates, whose shape and distance from one another are arranged in a precise pattern that disrupts reflective light wavelengths to produce the brilliant blue. To create that same blue out of pigment would require much more energy—energy better used for flying, feeding and reproducing.
Miles wondered if this capability could be exploited in some way. Where else might you want incredibly vivid color in a thin package?
From Smithsonian Mag.