Day: July 22, 2011

Water Scarcity: A Selected Bibliography

The U.S. Army War College Library is pleased to announce the publication of Water Scarcity: A Selected Bibliography, compiled by Greta H. Andrusyszyn.

Water scarcity is an emerging topic in security and conflict studies. This selected bibliography highlights some of the concerns, including border disputes, effect on food supply, and the shared responsibility for the future of water resources. Not a comprehensive listing, this selected bibliography is intended to be a starting point for research.

This Is Why We’re Hot: Sun-Absorbing Black Roofs Need a Coat of White Paint

Read the full story in Good.

If you live anywhere in America other than the shores of the Pacific, you are probably sweating right now. A lot. And it’s likely that the paint job and materials on your building’s roof are making it worse. As we’ve reported on GOOD before, painting white the black roofs that top many of American cities can deflect 70 percent more sun, keeping interiors cooler,  reducing the urban heat island effect, and curbing global warming. Luckily it seems like 2011 could be the summer where this idea goes mainstream, with the combination of powerful heat waves and politicians (Bill Clinton!) getting behind the idea.

Can Designers Save the World Without Creating More Stuff?

Read the full story at Good Design.

It’s not till you’re older that you realize kids are repositories for half-truths. They’re told the most extraordinary things. You could be president some day. You could compete in the Olympics. Grown-ups dispense these fantasies with earnest hope, knowing that the chances of their child fulfilling such a goal are very slim.

“Designers can save the world,” was a common phrase I heard upon entering design school. It was the ultimate half-truth, one that resulted in class critiques filled with eco-inspired projects: billboards lined with solar panels, cell phones made of birdseed, wind-powered villages. Though the sentiment was admirable, these solutions were designed by students with no understanding of real-world economics and politics. Little did we know that to attach even one solar panel onto a billboard can take years of lobbying. That’s the problem with designing for a better planet—most solutions require too much time and result in adding more physical stuff to an already bursting planet.

In his book, By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons, Ralph Caplan advises us not to underestimate the power of situation design, or “the concept of moving from the design of things to the design of the circumstance in which things are used.” He asserts, “The most elegant design solution of the fifties was not the molded plywood chair or the Olivetti Lettera 22 or the chapel at Ronchamp. It was the sit-in.” Finally, a definition of design that emphasizes the economy of time, an understanding of resource availability, and most importantly, using what’s at hand rather than producing more goods to solve a problem.

Old Clothing Glued Together, To Form Mega-Stylish Chairs

Read the full post at FastCoDesign.

Far too many people toss their outdated clothes or, worse, send them to Salvation Army assuming, wrongly, that someone else wants to snatch up a pair of 1987 Z. Cavariccis. Tobias Juretzek ain’t one of them. He takes his old shirts, jeans, and other garments and turns them into something actually useful: furniture.

Juretzek, a German designer, throws together disused clothes to create stylish little chairs that could almost pass for something you’d find around the dining-room table, if not for the occasional exposed zipper (ouch!).

Givmo: A Better Way to Give More

Read the full story at Shareable.

Don’t know about you, but I’m a broke writer type who doesn’t have a big “stuff” budget. I do a lot of Freecycling – both giving and getting – but, even though I live in an urban area, there’s some stuff I just can’t get (or get rid of) from the local gift economy. eBay is usually the next best bet for cheap gear, but let’s be honest: who knows where some of that stuff comes from?

Enter Givmo, the happy spot between Freecycle and eBay. It’s essentially an online marketplace where everything is free. Givmo lets you list your giftables, or shop for free goods from all over the United States. If you want something, you pay the shipping cost. That’s it.

Pay-What-You-Can Cafes Share the Bounty with Those in Need

Read the full post at Shareable. Although this isn’t specifically an environmental story, it certainly fits into the sustainability category (specifically the social part of the triad).

If you were to only judge the world by watching the news, you’d think we had collectively lost all of our humanity, our intergrity. Neverending wars, devastating environmental disasters, punishing austerity measures… all of which impact the poorer among us more than the richer. Rare is the voice that speaks for the underprivileged. But, if you listen hard enough, you might just hear a little whisper out there in the distance.

Among those voices, Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich might well be the loudest. Last year, Shaich began an experiment in Clayton, Missouri. He opened a Panera Cares pay-what-you-can café and it has been an unqualified success, so much so that he has since opened two more locations – in Dearborn, Michigan, and Portland, Oregon. The goal, now, is to open one per quarter in diverse communities around the country – the geographical logic being that the folks with more means can help offset those with less.

And that logic has been borne out. Using the slogan, “Take what you need, leave your fair share,” the cafés are doing just fine. Shaich claims that an estimated 60 percent of customers pay suggested retail price, 20 percent pay extra, and another 20 percent pay less or nothing. The net average comes out to approximately 80 percent of suggested retail price and the shops generate revenues well above their costs. Interestingly, there are no cashiers and cash registers to tally humility or generosity, only greeters and donation boxes to preserve dignity and collect offerings. Further still, some of those who can’t contribute monetarily offer their time and effort instead which, in turn, lowers operating costs for the business.

Dudefest no more? Women are infiltrating cleantech

Read the full post at Grist.

Clean energy is one of the most dynamic sectors in the world — hot start-ups, technological whizbangery, cutthroat competition, billions in venture-capital investments, a race against the climate clock.

But there’s one aspect of the clean-energy field that’s just as sclerotic as the world of fossil fuels: patriarchy.

Men invented, engineered, invested in, and presided over the technologies and companies that made oil, coal, and natural gas the dominant fuels of our time. And now men are running the show at most of the firms pushing renewables, efficiency, clean cars, and the smart grid. There is only one female CEO, for instance, among the companies on The Wall Street Journal‘s recent list of top 10 cleantech enterprises, and only a small minority of the companies have women in senior executive positions.

The blog VentureBeat hilariously declared the whole cleantech sector to be a “sausagefest” in which “the glass ceiling … persists,” and listed 25 top cleantech companies that have no women on their boards.

But there’s more to the story. Look a little closer and you can see that women are gradually, quietly permeating clean-energy industries. Some are running their own start-ups. Some are climbing the ranks in big companies. Some are investing tens of millions in start-ups via venture-capital firms. They are still a small minority, to be sure, but there’s good reason to believe that women will play ever greater and more influential roles in the fast-evolving cleantech sector than they ever have in fossil fuels.

Best Buy’s new sustainability report: Between recycling and upgrading

Read the full post at Triple Pundit.

Best Buy released their 2011 sustainability report last week, entitled “Our World, Connected.” It is a comprehensive report demonstrating Best Buy’s CEO commitment that “as the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer, we take our economic, social and environmental responsibilities very seriously.” At the same time it also presents some of the challenges retailers have when they try to embed sustainability into their business.

First, kudos to Best Buy for creating a user-friendly online report instead of the traditional 80-pages or so PDF. They also did a great job in neatly presenting their four business-centered themes: Product Stewardship, Sustainable Solutions, Access through Connections, and an Inspired Workplace. These themes came up after Best Buy engaged its customers to find out what issues were meaningful for them.

MIT’s ‘backtalk’ project tracks discarded electronics

Read the full post at Gizmag.

Have you ever wondered what happens to obsolete electronics once they are discarded? How far do they travel and what are the “second lives” of donated computers? MIT’s backtalk project aims to answer those questions simply by tracing discarded devices with location trackers applied to a number of e-waste items. The tracking data will be available to the public in the form of real-time visualizations, exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in New York from July 24.

Kitchen recycling tip: Cereal boxes

Read the full post at Mother Nature Network.

Before they hit the recycling bin, here are seven ways to repurpose cereal boxes into useful, money saving items.

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