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Green Is The New Black

Crazy But Cool Inventions Solving The World’s Environmental Problems

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When it comes to news about the climate crisis, it can feel overwhelmingly negative. But the latest IPCC report has made it clear – we still have time. And actually, change can happen fast if we really want it to. Here are some crazy but cool inventions providing a glimmer of hope during these unprecedented times.

Our environment is going to sh*t; global temperatures are increasing, natural resources are depleting, in 2021 we’ve experienced intense floods, fires, hurricanes and an ongoing pandemic (is someone trying to tell us something?). We’ve all seen the headlines, and when it comes to reporting the climate crisis, it’s difficult to avoid an impending sense of doom. 

But there is hope. Project Drawdown’s latest report identified that we already have no fewer than 76 solutions at our fingertips to solve the climate crisis. We know exactly what needs to be done, and we have the technology and nous to do it. And there are lots of excellent humans out there doing amazing things already (case in point: check out our Green Warriors). But if further inspiration is required, here are our favourite crazy but cool inventions out there which might just help save our planet.

Textile dyes the natural way

One big problem that affects Asia’s poor water quality is chemical pollution from the textile industry. As with all big issues, all it takes is a little thought to solve them. Enter Colorifix. It identified that the usual way to make textile dyes is water and chemical-intensive. So it came up with a crafty new clean and green way to do it. Using biologically-driven processes guided by nature, it develops dyes using fewer chemicals, energy and 10 times less water. Problem solved.


A giant vacuum cleaner for smog

Imagine breathing in lungfuls of fresh, clean air, even in the most bustling of cities. That’s the motivation for SMOG FREE PROJECT, a campaign for clean air led by Daan Roosegaarde. He has created a SMOG FREE TOWER which literally sucks pollution out of the air. It comes equipped with environmentally-friendly technology, cleans 30.000m3 per hour, and uses a small amount of green electricity. Consider it a giant vacuum cleaner for smog. Smart.

A lamp powered by saltwater?

Aptly named SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting – geddit?) is a lamp powered exclusively by salt and water. The lamp uses a saline solution to power LED lights and even has USB ports to charge your phone. It was initially created to help remote islands in the Philippines where access to electricity is scarce. Move over batteries; SALt is here.

Beer made from bread

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than Jesus turning water into wine, the guys behind Crust figured out how to turn bread into beer. It takes fresh surplus bread (that would otherwise be thrown away) from elite bakeries and leading hotels and transforms it into craft brews. Cheers to that.

Paper made from stone

According to WWF, the global pulp and paper industry accounts for 40% of all industrial logging. As the globe battles with deforestation, the folks at Karst thought there must be a better way. Karst creates paper without timber, water, chlorine or acids, all while using only a third of the carbon footprint. How exactly? By replacing trees with stone. Yes, you read that correctly. It transforms recycled stone into minimalist, functional and beautiful products that are more durable and brighter than traditional paper. Who knew?


Giant floating nets clearing ocean plastic

Back in 2012, 16-year old Boyan Slat gave a TEDx talk describing his idea to clean the plastic garbage patches in our oceans. Initially, his solution flew under the radar. But within 12-months, the talk went viral, crowdfunding blew up, and The Ocean Cleanup project took off. Fast forward to now, and his ever-expanding team have successfully started removing the plastic from our oceans and rivers using what is essentially just a massive floating net (it’s actually very clever, read more here). Where does the plastic go? It’s’s transformed into beautiful, sustainable products (obvs) with all proceeds reinvested back into clearing up more plastic. You can get in on the act by donating here.

A magic straw that filters dirty H2O into drinking water

What began as a project to remove Guinea worm larvae from contaminated water evolved into a straw that’s pure sorcery. LifeStraw can filter out all sorts of microbiological contaminants that make water undrinkable. Basically, what goes in dirty comes out clean; each LifeStraw can turn up to 4,000 litres of contaminated water into drinkable water. In doing so it has increased access to clean water for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.

A forest made of data?

Big data is big business, and our insatiable appetite for it is killing the planet. Giant data farms now occupy vast swathes of land and consume huge amounts of electricity; by 2025, global data centres will use more than 25% of our global energy. And it was this astonishing fact which triggered youth innovator Monika Seyfried to take action. She’s the brains behind Grow Your Own Cloud; a new biotech company storing data in the DNA of plants. This all-new cloud storage has the potential to store all of the world’s data in just 1kg of DNA (yes, really). If Seyfried has anything to do with it, we can expect to see “data forests” popping up soon.

Concrete made with CO2

For every 1kg of cement produced, more than 0.5kg carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. It’s responsible for an astonishing 5% of global CO2 emissions. Which makes Solidia Technologies’ groundbreaking cement blocks a gamechanger for the cement industry. Each block sucks CO2 from the atmosphere during the creation process. Watch how right here.


Solar and pedal-powered sound systems

Got an event coming up? Check out Hong-Kong based Solar Sound System; the sustainable and mobile sound system that brings quality acoustics to any event. All you need is a spot of sun and pedal-power! The set-up includes turntables for DJs, and a powerful sound system that works for events for 50 – 500 people.

Stationary that you can plant

Every year, a staggering 80,000 trees are cut down to meet the global demand of 14 billion pencils. Left-handesign founder, Radikha Mayani, wanted to create an alternative line of pencils and notebooks that can live a second life. As plants. She has designed striking stationary, everything from pencils and notebooks to greeting cards and red envelopes that are loaded with seeds. Once they have fulfilled their first job, you can pop them in soil and watch the grow into herbs and vegetables.

A plastic alternative made from methane?

Mango Materials produces a naturally occurring biopolymer from waste biogas (methane) that is economically competitive with conventional oil-based plastics. Converting a greenhouse gas into something that replaces plastics? It’s a massive win-win for the Earth.


Cutlery you can eat

While we’re firm advocates of BYO, what’s the alternative if you forget? Cutlery you can eat, obvs. And we reckon India-based Bakeys is onto something. It makes edible cutlery free from chemicals, preservatives, and milk products. It even sells each set at the same cost as plastic cutlery, making it a no-brainer to make the switch. And we love the Willy Wonka-esque vibes of chowing down on your spoon post-dinner.

Lights powered by algae 

Thanks to the research from biochemist Pierre Calleja, that’s a genuine possibility. He has high hopes for microscopic, single-cell microalgae. It’s a plant with the potential to clean the air, fuel cars, and light city streets. And when it comes to lights, it’s’s completely self-sufficient creating all the energy required through photosynthesis in the day. Also, it absorbs CO2. Who knew algae could be this amazing?


Plastic bottle air-cons

With global temperatures rising, air-con is a luxury many can’t afford to live without. But what happens to those who really can’t afford air-conditioning? It’s this precise situation, a reality for many in rural Bangladesh, which inspired Ashis Paul to develop EcoCoolers. It’s an amazing DIY cooling system that requires zero electricity; all it needs is empty plastic soda bottles. How cool is that?


A sustainable tent with everything you need

A tent that collects rainwater stores solar energy and provides convenient collapsible shelter? Sounds like a genius invention to us. Built with refugees in mind, this miracle home is also caring for the environment. Not only is Weaving a Home beautifully designed, but it also aims to transform the lives of refugees by providing stability and humanity.


Stylish ashtrays made from magical mushrooms and discarded butts

Aside from smoking being horrendous for your health, it is also a nightmare for the environment with cigarette butts being one of the most frequently found pieces of trash. Innovative and circular, this ashtray is produced by PuriFungi and made of butts transformed by fungi through a biological method of mycoremediation.

‘Ecocrete’ planters and tiles – made from recycled plastic

Slab Interiors are helping tackle plastic pollution in Bali by using plastic that would otherwise end up choking waterways and upcycling it into beautiful ‘concrete’ home interiors. They can use any kind of plastic that can be shredded and a standard planter contains up to 120 bottles!

Vegan leather that can help with carbon capture

A lot of vegan leather alternatives are made from plastic so while they are certainly better for animals, they are not so great for the environment. Plant-based leather is certainly having a moment but more exciting than Desserto. This innovative new material is durable, breathable and made from cactus – a plant that is abundant in the founders’ native Mexico. Cactus requires little water, absorbs CO2 and mature sections of the plant can be harvested rather than the entire plant – making it a triple win for sustainability!

So what is your crazy idea? Share them with us or any other crazy but cool innovations you know of!

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