Recycled Newspaper Wood

The ethical arguments that motivate recycling and material reuse are really quite simple: to reduce our raw material consumption and our impact on the natural environment we need to reuse and recycle as much as possible. Naturally, this is much easier said than done. Even given a community that is producing recyclable waste and given a large enough population that is willing to pay for the waste to be recycled rather than land-filled, there is still the very relevant issue of finding a use for all the reprocessed material. Glass is not really an issue. Glass can be melted down and reused an infinite number of times without any loss in material quality (and at a lower energy demand than was required to turn sand into glass). Metal has to be meticulously separated (nickel with nickel, steel with steel, etc), but metal too can easily be reused. Plastics are a whole other story, but we wont go into that. Paper can be easily processed, but the ink cannot be removed from the reprocessed paper pulp. Therefore, office paper cannot be turned back into office paper. The great dilemma then becomes finding a good, energy efficient use for the enormous quantity of recyclable paper that is being produced and disposed of all the time.

One Dutch designer, Mieke Meijer, has addressed this issue with the creation of Newspaper Wood, an alternative building material that, just as the name suggests, is made from recycled newspapers. Called Kranthout (that’s newspaper in Dutch), the product has been developed for the design company vij5. To produce this unique type of building material, the individual pages of a newspaper are rolled together by a machine and outputted in the form of magazine sized newspaper “logs”. These “logs” are then milled into newspaper “planks.” Perhaps you have noticed that once the newspaper has been processed by the specially engineered machine, it is basically treated as real wood. The newspaper “planks” are even drilled and sanded as needed. The way that the newspaper has been pressed together even gives the resulting wood the illusion of having grains, even if the lines are colored and sprinkled with text.

This new building material is still in the design faze. The creators of Kranthout are improving on the manufacturing process as well as developing products in which the newspaper wood can be used. The thought of a desk made entirely out of newspaper immediately pops into my mind. Naturally, the wood will not have enough tensile strength for any load bearing application, but simple things like fences or the detailing of a house seem like a very reasonable application. Mostly importantly, the abundance and cheap supply of newspaper means that Kranthout could someday be very widely available. This truly is an innovative re-purposing of recycled materials. The designers have even made sure that the glue used to form the wood can be dissolved if needed, meaning that the newspaper wood can again be recycled once it has reached the end of its life.

Mieke Meijer’s kranthout was presented as part of the Rematerializing the Future (as shown in the images below). The exhibition was put on by Material Sense as part of Dutch Design Week.

Source: World Changing

Body Heat Powered MP3 Player

Introducing the Skinny Player, the band-aid sized mp3 player that plays one albums’ worth of music. The functions of the mp3 player are quite simple, just a Play/Stop button that turns the unit on and off. Without even the ability to skip tracks, the Skinny Player has less functionality than an iPod shuffle. With that said, you should realize that the coolest thing about the Skinny Player is not that it is a tiny mp3 player, but that the device isn’t powered by a battery. The unit doesn’t even have a battery. The player runs entirely off of energy generated by your body heat.

Designed by Chih-Wei Wang and Shou-His Fu, the Skinny Player is intended to be worn just like a Band-Aid. The unit doesn’t have any clips, wrist bands, or belt holsters. The flexible and lightweight design allows the mp3 player to stick right onto the skin of your arm. The system is so minimalist that it doesn’t even have an headphone jack. The flexible wings of the Skinny Player also serve as speakers (but probably not very good ones. Plus, if you cannot even skip tracks, I doubt you would be able to adjust the volume to your liking. )

I feel like the device is bound to be just a novelty item. The only plus that the Skinny Player has over the iPod Shuffle, Nano, or similar compact mp3 players is that the unit is power by body heat. While this battery-less design is certainly cool and sustainable, the loss of functionality will probably hold it back. The inability to use headphones seems like an absolute deal-breaker. These is no way that electricity generated from body heat would be enough to play music at a good volume. And if you are going to run in an urban environment, you have to noise of city traffic to constantly compete against. I don’t see this idea ever making it out of the realm of interesting concept. There are just too many things holding it back.

Source: Yanko Design

For The Love of Flowers…

Whoever designed and resides in this home certainly loves their flower pots. Just finding this image made me smile so I thought I’d pass it on. I wish I could say more, but the site that the image comes from, Urbanarbolismo, is in Spanish or Portuguese and I have no idea what the description says. I cannot imagine the work that must go into maintaining all these plants, but perhaps the home is located in an area of fair weather and substantial rain so that the plants can essentially survive on their own without the aid of a gardener.

Vertical Garden Wall

Designed by Architect Jose Maria Chofre, the vertical garden pictured was installed on the six story exterior wall of a newly constructed children’s library in San Vicente de Raspeig, Spain.

The vertical garden  uses cubic containers filled with substrate felt held in by two metal grids. One grid is on the outside and the other on the inside of the wall. For planting and maintenance, the containers can be reached via corridors built into the rear. The plants are watered by a metal structure built upon the deposit of concrete.

You could basically consider the structure to be a living wall or green wall. Though it serves a more decorative than functional role in the build’s structure as a green roof, the vertical garden is certainly comparable in principle. Varieties of small flowers and herbs compose the upper layers of the vertical garden. Ferns grow near the bottom of the garden and ivy climbs up the sides. This is one of the only ever-changing walls you will ever find.

This really is a beautiful example of innovative architecture that attempts to challenge our traditional expectations of development.

A Bird Village On Your Roof

This is quite a unique idea. Dutch designer Klaas Kuiken has created red clay birdhouse shingles that can become part of a home’s roof. I’m curious about how the heat of the sun could effect the living potential of the homes, but the concept is elegant all the same. Having a home clustered with these clay birdhouses doesn’t do much to make up for the loss of natural habitat but it certainly promotes an environmentally conscious attitude that I can appreciate. Conservation and preservation is always the most effective and responsible approach, but any effort is better than none. Plus, these birdhouses are the kind of thing that people are bound to notice and to comment on. That kind of interest is always a perfect starting point for larger kinds of progress and projects. I would be really excited to see someone with an entire village of these red clay birdhouses on their roof. That would serve as a very natural alarm clock of chirping every sunrise.

Lemon Powered Clock

So maybe this clock doesn’t have any practical use, but it is really cool nonetheless. Based on scientific principals mastered by kids in science fair projects all across the country, the digital clock is powered by the oxidation reaction between the citric acid of the fruit slice and the copper and zinc in the base of the clock. Believe it or not but a single lemon is able to generate enough electricity to power the clock for an entire week. I figure that ultimately the usefulness of the clock probably doesn’t extend past simple keeping track of long the sliced lemon has been left on your kitchen counter. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong and someone out there is searching for a way to time how quickly orange juice naturally seeps from a sliced orange.

Bel-Air: Living Air Purifier

I’m always excited to find products that improve the quality of indoor environments in a way that is natural and beautiful (as in it doesn’t involve synthetic chemicals). Because of high traffic and low airflow, homes and workplaces can often become a poor environment, particularly when it comes to air quality. I’m sure everyone is familiar with that musty, stale air where you wish someone would open a window and let it all just blow away.

The elegant plant pod shown, known as the Bel-Air, is a concept from Mathieu Lehanneur for a unique indoor air purifier. The unit is designed to gradually and naturally improve the air quality in a room using fresh and very-much-living plants. To promote the plant’s growth and fully encourage its capability as an air purifier, the capsule functions as a miniature greenhouse. The air from the surrounding room is blown into the capsule. The particulate matter and other pollutants are trapped by the humid air and the plant. The now purified air is released back into the indoor environment.

The Bel-Air’s design actually owes its roots to NASA research and humanities first attempts as space flight. It was found that astronauts, having returned from missions where they spent time inside capsules made of plastics, fiberglass, and fire retardants, had elevated levels of volatile organic compounds in their blood stream. NASA determine that this was the result of polluted air that the astronauts were exposed to in the confined spaces of the capsules.

In response, NASA began to look into the creation of “space gardens”  or plants could accompany astronauts on board in order to improve the quality of recirculated air. According to NASA’s findings, the plants best suited for air purification include gerbera, philodendron, spathiophyllum, pathos, and chlorophytum.

After learning of this, Lehanneur then built on the research and created his own free-standing, mobile plant-pod version of NASA’s air purifying space gardens. The result is a sleek and trendy looking unit. The design certainly doesn’t hide it’s space-age roots.

Source: [Dezeen]

Solar Energy Generating Ivy

Imagine if, instead of ivy clinging to the side of your Georgian brick, the leaves were a solar-wind hybrid that generated energy every time the sun shined or the wind blew.

Today, the idea has gone beyond the realm of the imaginary and entered the world of reality. Called Solar Ivy (and indeed, what else could you call it?), this revolutionary system of photovoltaic “leaves” offers the best of the botanical world combined with solar and kinetic energy, as brother-sister designer team Samuel and Teresita Cochran of Brooklyn-based SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) intended.

The leaves comprise thin-film photovoltaic (PV) material over polyethylene, each still as thin as a single leaf, with or without a piezoelectric generator attached.

Still in the concept phase, and faced with exorbitant costs for the miniscule generators (which create electrical potential every time the material responds to outside influences like wind), the mechanical ivy has so far been used in real life only on a bus stop .

It has also been featured at the MoMa Exhibition , Design Philadelphia, by Dwell on Design , and by the New York Times for its 9th Annual Year in Ideas issue (2009). Fans were particularly enthused by its ranking fourth on a groundbreaking Green Technology splashpage by Inhabitat.

This post appears courtesy of CalFinder Solar blog .

Two for One Renewable Energy

Introducing the Greenorator by designer Jonathan Globerson. This interesting gadget it intended for people with serious space restrictions, but who still want to do their part in reducing their carbon footprint. If you cannot tell, the Greenorator is a synthesis of  of solar panels and a wind turbine. Mounted to the balcony railings of an apartment, the system makes the most of the space available while still looking sleek and classy, if that’s what you are into I mean.

According to the designer, Jonathan Globerson, each unit can reduce your electricity bills by 6 percent and can save 2000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually. It should be noted that this is only a concept, so I’m not sure how such an approximation was made.

Earthships 101, Inspirational :)

This clip is more or less just a promotional video and not so much a tutorial, but it is fun nonetheless. The video, in two part, does explain the functionality of these homes with some sense of completeness. The homes’ method of water resource management is one of the most intriguing part of the homes. I’m pretty interested in designing a gray water system of my own. I am certainly a green house enthusiast. The creators and designers of Earthships have an internship program. Naturally, it is unpaid, but I feel like it would be an amazing experience to take part in.

The Poor Little Fish Sink

The pictures here are pretty explanatory of what this sink is all about, but don’t worry, it is just an illusion. As a result of some clever plumbing, the water level in the fish bowl drops as someone washes their hands in the sink basin. The design is intended to promote water conservation with a simple but poignant message: the more water you use, the more water is taken from the fish.

Of course this isn’t literally the case. The water from the fish bowl is moved to a storage container while the sink is in use and then moved back once the sink is turned off. Also, the water level is only lowered to a point. Once that level is reached, the water level stops falling and the fish is safe (It really wouldn’t make much sense to wash your hands in water that a fish has been swimming around in anyway). But hopefully the visual illusion is enough for people to get the larger point that wasting water is taking water away from ecosystems that rely it.

Lamp Powered by Dog Poop

This just made me laugh. As this article’s title suggests, the system converts doggy doodoo into electricity that is then used by the attached lamp. The novelty of the idea is pretty cool.

The units in the pictures are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is called the Park Spark. The system operates as follows: the pet owner picks up the dog poop with a biodegradable bag and places it inside the Park Spark. He or she then rotates that crank which transfers the bag into a digester. There the bag and poop slowly break down (through natural anaerobic decomposition), releasing methane. This methane is the burned in the lamp. It reality, the lamp isn’t so much a special feature as a necessity. Methane is the worst of all the greenhouse gases and burning it (also called flaring) is the only real means of destroying the gas.

Park Spark’s creators intend to implement the technology into other systems that burn regular amounts of fuel each day like tea houses or popcorn stands. Maybe they could put together an incentive system or pay costumers for they’re doggy droppings. Now that would be a brave new world.

Portable Wind Energy

This portable wind turbine is designed with the intent of providing emergency power in a time of need. Of course it is only a concept and one turbine alone doesn’t tend to produce enough energy for any substantial use. Nonetheless, an army of such portable wind energy resources could make the difference for a community that has lost access to power all together due to some natural disaster. It is an interesting concept and a cool design.

Urban Farmers Unite

As a rule of thumb, the 8th floor of an urban apartment complex isn’t the best place to grow a vegatable garden. Despite the less than ideal setting, members of The Windowfarms Project are making the most of limited space and light resources with interesting new designs. Through innovation and creative thinking, people are turning their windows into productive hydroponic gardens.

The Project’s website,, is filled with different kits, informative step-by-step DIY manuals, and plenty of suggestion and shared experiences. All this information makes it possible for urban farmers to grow healthy foods indoors all year long. Most people living in an urban environment simply don’t have access to good (unpolluted) soil in order to start a garden. The Windowfarms Project is making this social and economic change possible for people around the country. The mission of The Windowfarms Project is to promote environmentally sustainable lifestyles in urban spaces. This goal is being achieved by empowering individuals with the knowledge to grow product in their own homes and apartment. People are then encouraged to share the knowledge and experience they have gained in the process through a web-based platform that the project has created.
The Windowfarms Project is a truely altruistic mission. The group is not simply trying to sell a new product to the pub
An importanlic, per se. Some complete kits can be found on the website but these are intended for individuals without the power tool or handyman experience to create a complete system of their own. Not everyone has the time or experience to start a design from scratch and turn it into a fully functional window garden. But the true essence of the project can be found on the website and the abundance of shared information. People show the plans they have created, discuss the issues they had to adress, hear suggests from other project participants, and so on. It really is group projress through individual effort.

The Windowfarms Project presents their intent for member participation as a 6 part process:
Download DIY instructions
Build a window farm of your own
Improve/Troubleshoot your assembly while posting problems and ideas on the project website
Test solutions and ideas with others in the online community
Contribute to improving designs and instructions to further the work of the Windowfarms Project.

The Windowfarms Project is, at first glance, a very simple concept (show people how to start a vegetable and herb garden in their apartment windows), but it is the underlying mission that is so important and inspiring. The project connects people all across the country with a shared goal of improving the sustainability of how they live. The message you should take away from the Windowfarms Project is this: Don’t just wait for others to figure how to save the environment, get your hands dirty and do your part to create a sustainable lifestyle.

The Sustainable Home: Earthship

Presenting the Earthship. These are amazing homes; made from recycled material and totally self-sustaining. And we are not talking about your rusting cabin in the woods, these are modern homes for people interesting in living their comfortable lives while reducing their energy demand. In fact, neither of these homeowners pays an electricity bill, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up their computers….

Architect Michael Reynolds refers to his style of construction as biotecture because his homes focus on the recycling of materials in construction and on creating a sustainable system of water and power collection and temperature control without the use of fuel. All water entering the home is from rain and snow melt. All electricity is from solar panels and wind turbines. All sewage leaving the home is treated on site. Homes include indoor and outdoor gardens so that homeowners can grow their own produce. The gardens are watered by sink and shower water. Any remaining runoff is collected and used in the toilets. It is an intelligent and harmonious system that avoids unnecessary waste in the pursuit of total sustainability. With thoughtfulness and a resourceful mind, Earthships create a lifestyle of responsibly and respect for nature little found in our modern world.
Here you can find a series of webinars given by Earthship inventor Michael Reynolds discussing the struggles his revolutionary image has faced.

A Technological Approach to Weeding Your Garden

This little invention really made my smile. No one would argue that weeding is a less than comfortable task. You get hot and worn out quite quickly. For me, my knees start to hurt and my back becomes really stiff. All of those complaints aside, this seems like comedic alternative. I guess this Aussi inventor was simply fed up with those little foam pads that you place under your knees or perhaps he got sunburned one too many times.

But all kidding aside, the Wunda Weeder, picture below, is a fairly ingenious creation. This solar powered rolling lounger could certainly change the way that people tend to their gardens. You would need a fairly large garden to really justify such a mechanism, but if you have such a need, the Wunda Weeder seems like the best solution you are going to find. Unless, that is, you are prepared to build a version of your own.

The assembly is really quite simple, though in my opinion, a little over-engineered. Above the occupant, there are two mounted solar panels that recharge the battery pack. The power stored up in the battery is used to slowly propel the Wunda Weeder along your garden, enabling you to pick out weeds and tend to your plants while lounging semi-comfortable position. Lying on your stomach isn’t a particularly natural position, but it would still be much better than crouching over every foot of your garden. The Wunda Weeder also shades the user from the sun and even includes a radio to provide some entertainment as you work.

Though currently only available in Australia, maybe the Wunda Weeder will start revolutionizing gardening in the U.S. in the near future. Then maybe you too can take on gardening while lying down.

via cnet