A look at what – and who – is pushing the future in new directions

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Climate scientists predict extreme drought for U.S. and Western hemisphere – and major consequences -in coming decades

Extreme drought is likely in store in the coming decades for parts of the United States and the broader Western Hemisphere, scientists said today (Oct. 19), cautioning that we should expect dry conditions unlike anything seen in modern times.

The likely culprit: warming temperatures linked to climate change.

“We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community,” said National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist and study team member Aiguo Dai. “If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”

Just when we learned that the world is NOT ending in 2012 (update: the Mayan prediction is, apparently, wrong) comes news of something more gruesome.

As for this winter, meteorologists say La Nina may be laying into us with more snow and cold but, if the climatologists are right, we shouldn’t let today’s temperatures fool us.

What does this mean? Sustainability isn’t a trend or a value set, it’s a mandate.

Give me your chocolate, your plants, and your Prius

If we erected a Statue of Sustainability today, her placard would undoubtedly read: give me your chocolate, your plant-based products, and your people-powered Priuses; at least, that’s what the latest innovations from Toyota, Coca-Cola, and the NASCAR racing industry would imply…

* Toyota released a behind-the-scenes preview of their 2010 Prius commercial that is choreographed and constructed entirely out of people. It looks like a scene straight out of a Dr. Suess book made for TV! Love it. Have a look at the video below where the production team describes the innovation and logistical challenges behind its debut.

* Despite Coca-Cola‘s tarnished human rights image abroad, they are making important strides in sustainability at home with their partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. The Atlanta Coca-Cola headquarters has put out a fully-recyclable bottle prototype that is made entirely out of plant-based plastic. Traditional PET bottles are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, but the new plant bottle is made with  up to 30 percent plant-based materials.

“The Coca-Cola Company is a company with the power to transform the marketplace, and the introduction of the PlantBottle(TM) is yet another great example of their leadership on environmental issues,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund, U.S. “We are pleased to be working with Coke to tackle sustainability issues and drive innovations like this through their supply chain, the broader industry and the world.”

*Last, but obviously never least – race cars are always in the lead – is the introduction of a plant-powered Formula 1 race car from the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre as a part of their WorldFirst project. The Vegetable Car boasts a carrot-based polymer steering wheel, wing mirrors made of potatoes, and a bio diesel engine that – I kid you not – runs on “waste chocolate.” And the sustainability measures do nothing to compromise speed, the Vegetable Car can still hit upwards of 125 miles on hour!

“Following the recent turmoil in Formula 1 arising from the high costs of running competitive motor racing teams, and doubts in sponsors’ minds over the commercial value of their involvement, the viability of motor racing is being critically questioned,” the WorldFirst website explains. ” We are seeking to prove to  the motor industry that it is possible to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components.”

Move over Mother Liberty, the call for sustainability is getting louder and more creative every day.

A Picture of Sustainability

This is John Paget‘s award-winning video for the Congress for New Urbanism. Paget lays out his argument that while urban sprawl is designed to fail, new urbanism is a model that is built to last. In addition to his suggestion to keep our personal living spaces condensed, Paget should also recognize that it is important to look at our building methods on a large scale. Aside from the housing market,  businesses can begin to set the example by requesting sustainably designed structures for their companies. They may not be able to cut corners on the size of their manufacturing plants, but they can definitely cut social and environmental costs.

My dad is the owner of Sage Structures, a sustainable construction company in Madison, WI, and he has made a career  in tilt-up concrete construction. Consequently, I have been receiving environmental build lectures since I was a little kid. Especially in a climate like the Midwest, where winters can reign brutally cold and summers are unbearably humid, the quick heating and cooling capabilities of a concrete building can make a huge difference for a large building. Green Concrete, a division of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, also highlights the many other sustainable aspects of concrete buildings. They are much more durable than metal manufacturing buildings, they reduce energy costs by as much as forty percent, and concrete is made of air, cement, water, sand, and gravel – elements that are available locally most everywhere.

Due to its accessibility in the construction realm, a push towards concrete builds seems would be an easy first step in sustainability for larger businesses. For even more architectural ideas, check out Blaine Brownell’s publication, Transmaterial: A Catalog of Materials That Redefine Our Physical Environment. He takes an innovative approach to design-build by using an array of unorthodox materials from coconut palm to” sonic fabric.” Pretty cool stuff!