Thursday, February 26, 2009

Art for Water - 13,699

Five million people die every year from water-related diseases. When artist Christine Destrempes learned of this statistic she wondered why there was no alarm sounding. She calculated how many people die every day - 13,699 - and decided to find a way to present the number visually.

Her installation, 13,699, is created to raise awareness of the number of people who die every day from water-related diseases because they do not have access to clean water. To symbolize these deaths, one clear plastic water bottle cap is used to represent each person. The object of this installation is to present the opportunity to experience physically the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis statistic.

The choice of using plastic bottle caps calls attention to other related environmental issues surrounding bottled water, such as privatization, depletion of aquifers, the environmental impact of plastic waste, the use of fossil fuels in making plastic, the carbon footprint of shipping bottled water, and the leaching of plastic into water sources. Purchasing bottled water turns a basic human right into a commodity, affecting access for people worldwide.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Socially Responsible Design

Kate_A has put together a collection on Flickr of socially responsible design images called Design Ethics.

There is a growing recognition for socially and ethically conscious design and aims to integrate predictions of our future society. The images give examples of how designers have used their ability and creativity to create impacts on the world's biggest challenges.

Visit the Design Ethics Flickr set to see some amazing ways that designers are approaching social responsibility.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Silent Snow Project

Silent Snow is a project which outlines the environmental problems in Greenland due to chemical poisoning. Via currents in the ocean and attached to snow, pesticides like DDT are carried northbound into Inuit land, causing illness and premature death. Silent Snow is a documentary project investigating, together with the people who are affected the most, what turns out to be a structural pollution of the entire global environmental system.

The project aims to raise awareness of the problems that face the Inuit communities in Greenland. The project includes both a short and a feature length documentary by Jan van den Berg, educational material for schools and a website. In the short film the subject is introduced by following two young girls in Greenland and the way in which they are confronted with the pollution of their environment.

In the feature length documentary a young Inuit woman travels around the world looking for the causes of this pollution. As such the film highlights not only the consequences in the polar region, but also the causes and dilemmas, such as the use of DDT against malaria in Africa.

FormShift Vancouver

FormShift Vancouver is a new competition which invites the world to help Vancouver imagine itself as not only a denser city, but one more green, livable and exciting to the eye. The program is jointly sponsored by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) and the City of Vancouver. As an "open ideas competition", the contest welcomes ideas from all potential designers - not just architects or urban planners.

The competition hopes to find designers who will combine the Climate Change Action Plans and EcoDensity Charter that Vancouver has already adopted with an entirely new perspective on urban design. It is a chance to build a hypothetical neighbourhood of the future, one that is in keeping with the vibrant, ecologically-friendly and sustainable city to which Vancouver aspires to be.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Green Sleepers on UK Trains

Britain's Network Rail is turning to recycled plastic in a trial of environmentally friendly sleepers. Network Rail is to fit up to 250 of the green sleepers, made from old car bumpers and plastic bottles, on the network this summer. The material will replace traditional timber sleepers, which are still common on slower lines.

The trial will see around 20 tonnes of waste material recycled to form the new sleepers. During the trial, Network Rail will test whether they can withstand the rigours of a running railway, and, once proven, will look to progressively roll them out across parts of the network.

Using recycled plastic to make sleepers has many advantages, not least reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill. Locally sourced, they can be made as long as needed, helping to reduce costs when compared to hardwood beams which have to be imported from managed forests thousands of miles away.

The sleepers are being developed and supplied by i-plas, a plastic waste recycling company, based in Halifax. was launched nine months ago by a group of Wharton students as a way of using social networks to connect education with the developing world. The group has so far attracted more than 200 lenders and has partnerships in China, India, Uganda, Ecuador and Kenya with the goal of creating a global community of individuals connected through their belief in the power of education to change people's lives.

What distinguishes Givology from other organizations is a philosophy of building lasting sponsor-student relationships and cross-cultural communication. Using messaging and blogging system, donors can send messages to a student, as well as receive updates on their progress. Each quarter or semester, student letters, progress updates, and academic documentation are all posted on Givology to allow donors to track their impact in the lives of an individual or a community.

Read an interview with the creators of at Knowledge@Wharton.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Green Oscar Party

Global Green USA'S 6th Annual Pre-Oscar Party is
Thursday, February 19th featuring musical performances by Sheryl Crow and Gavin Rossdale.

Every year, Global Green hosts an annual Pre-Oscar Party during the week of the Oscars. Celebrities, industry executives, and environmentalists join Global Green to celebrate and help raise funds for initiatives including green affordable housing and schools.

Get into the spirit of film making while being eco-friendly.

Tickets start at $125 but if you're not in LA or can't swing the ticket price, tune into Myspace Impact, Stickam or Causecast to watch the show.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom

During the next 6 years, 10 million new classrooms need to be built and 10-15 million more need to be upgraded just to provide basic access to education for children around the world. In response to the escalated need for learning spaces worldwide, 2009 brings the Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom - the world's first large-scale design initiative to improve the design of educational facilities around the world. It is a unique opportunity for faculty and students to partner with design professionals to create a safer, healthier and more sustainable learning environment and win funding to build or upgrade a classroom in their school.

The designers are invited to work with students and teachers to design the classroom of the future for a specific school. The design should address the unique challenges the school faces in trying to provide smart, safe and sustainable learning spaces. Interaction with students and teachers is encouraged and architects and designers are expected to work one-on-one with students to translate their needs into better classroom design.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Google PowerMeter

Being able to visualize your energy use helps people determine what appliances use the most amount of energy and allow them to learn where to cut back on energy use. A report by the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University showed that real-time information on energy use can save people up to 15% of their energy bills.

Google has taken the concept of monitoring and visualizing energy use and created Powermeter, a website tool that receives information from networked smart meters in homes and lets you see and analyse your energy use.

The Powermeter is not yet available to use for your home - Google wants to test the meter on its own employees first - but the company is already looking for collaborators to roll out the device and website in pilot programmes.

Google says the Powermeter is part of a wider plan to push government policy to adopt more smart meters in homes. "If we are going to have an energy revolution, then empowering users should be a fundamental part of that transformation."

Read more.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Studio Roosegaarde and the Sustainable Dance Floor

Studio Roosegaarde, located in Rotterdam, Netherlands creates interactive artworks which explore the dynamic relation between architecture, people and e-culture.

Studio Roosegaarde is the home of artist Daan Roosegaarde. As an artistic laboratory it creates interactive technologies and designs for the creative industry. The work at Studio Roosegaarde explores the dynamic relation between Architecture, people and new media. In this research the sculptures are a materialized collision of technology and the human body. Through the use of new media the sculptures trigger human senses to make a sensual engagement with their environment

Studio Roosegaarde is internationally known for its interactive artworks like 'Dune' and 'Sustainable Dance Floor'.

Sustainable Dance Floor is an interactive floor which generates electricity through the movements of people dancing. Studio Roosegaarde created the first Sustainable Dance Floor which uses mechanisms and embedded technologies to interact with energy.

Via interactive technologies a sensual and interactive environment is created in which dancers are engaged with a Sustainable experience.

arc, Hull

“A lean-to to learn from.”

arc is the architecture centre for Hull the Humber sub-region. arc architecture centre has the purpose of raising public, professional and local government understanding of architecture and public space. They attempt to accomplish this through a variety of learning, skills activities and public events for adults and young people to raise aspirations and increase a sense of ownership of buildings and spaces.

The building is engineered to embody ‘carbonsense’ to celebrate how new buildings can minimise their CO2 emissions through efficient design and use of renewable energy.

The design relates the built environment to the wider environment as a whole. The building itself is an education tool, it overtly expresses the processes that enable it to function, both structurally and environmentally. The building structure takes its cue from the estuarine nature of the landscape around Hull.

Read more about the sustainable features of the building here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Trim Tab

Trim Tab is a new online magazine published every three months by Cascadia Region Green Building Council. Trim Tab hopes to incite discussion and inspire solutions that the green building industry must undertake to address the global challenges we face.

The inaugural issue features a challenge to the American Dream Home, an investigation into the transformational design of Dockside Green and a conversation with the transformational developer Dennis Wilde.

Pictures of Consumption

There are 28,000 42-gallon barrels in this image. This is roughly the amount the United States consumes every two minutes.

Chris Jordan uses photography to illustrates the staggering scale of human consumption. His series Running the Numbers, is a series of photographs that look at statistics in contemporary American culture.

Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption), etc. While statistics can normally feel abstract and make it difficult to connect with and make meaning of of numbers lik 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, 2.3 million Americans in prison or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month, Chris Jordan's pictures provide a visual interpretation.

The picture above depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.

Greater detail:

New Scientist has selected some of these images for a slide show on their website with links to related articles for more information. It is called Gallery: Putting human consumption into perspective.

Hot Spot Photography

Gary Braasch is an environmental photojournalist who uses images to create important documentation about nature, environment, biodiversity and global warming.

The Discovery Channel has put together a "Hot Spot Slide Show" of Gary's work documenting climate change. The slide show hosts thought provoking images as well as information on how scientists are confronting climate change. Visit the slideshow at

The photographs offer a beautiful and informative look at the global affects of climate change.

Monday, February 2, 2009

National Debt and the Age of the Universe

The other day I was pondering the length of the Universe. I remember that back in High School we learned about the Cosmic Calendar thought up by Carl Sagan. The Cosmic Calendar compresses the history of the universe into a 1 year period - the first moment of January 1st is the Big Bang and we are currently living in the last moment of December 31.

The calendar is usually displayed like this:

As you can see, not a lot happens that we know about between January 1 and December. In December it starts to look a bit more interesting, but even then, dinosaurs didn’t even show their face until December 24. Although dinosaurs only roamed the earth for 6 days of the cosmic calendar, that’s significantly longer than the 6 minutes that modern humans have been around. What is even more amazing is that only a second ago, Christopher Columbus was sailing across the Atlantic. Approximately 500 years of history is compressed into a single second when put into the scale of a year. All of the technological advances of the past 50 years like computers and the internet are compressed even further into an amount of time that is even faster than a blink of the eye.

It’s pretty amazing to think about how enormous and huge the universe is. It makes one realize how far into the past 12.6 billion years – the approximate time of the Big Bang – actually is. Pretty incredible.

Anyway, as I was pondering how long that is, I began to think of other numbers that we use that are similar to that measurement.

Warren Buffet’s net worth is $62 billion USD. That means that if one were to take every dollar of his wealth and equaled every dollar to a year, his wealth would be greater than the age of the universe by 49.4 billion years. That’s about 4 years worth of cosmic calendars!

An even bigger number to think about is the US National Debt, currently estimated at $10,639,353,162,670.15 or 10.6 trillion dollars. Way bigger than the number of years the universe has been around.

National Debt-___10,639,353,162,670.15
Age of Universe-_____12,600,000,000.00

It’s pretty shocking to compare the two numbers.

So continuing on from my point above. If you think about the age of the universe, it is pretty incomprehensible when compared to what we know now.

If you take that number and relate it to our current monetary situation it’s even more incomprehensible. We have put ourselves in a situation with all of our spending and debt accumulation where the value of our debt is a number that is impossible to comprehend.

However, instead of continuing to arbitrarily think of the value of the national debt as a mere number, we should begin to realize the enormity of this amount and why it currently exists.

Clearly our spending is far exceeding what we have and this spills over into a number of different factors such as resource use and the environment. If we can’t comprehend the monetary value of our spending, think of the difficulty in understanding the social and environmental impacts of our consumption.

Which is another reason why it is important that we determine sustainable ways of living rather than continue to consume at a rate which is inconceivable.