The Newest Yoga Mat is Made from the Strangest Source: Algae Once derided as simple pond scum, algae is poised to become the newest source of sustainable foam products.
New Comic Book Celebrates Diversity and Superhero Single Moms Raising Dion features a young superhero boy and his equally heroic single mom.
Celebration and Politics, 10 Years After the Storm Writer and filmmaker Lolis Eric Elie on treacherous policy and the trials of preservation
This Shelter Assembles in Just One Hour—and Could House Disaster Victims for Four Months A Turkish design firm creates a compact home for victims of floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
How New Orleans’ Health Clinic for Musicians Survived the Storm The local healthcare provider weathered Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
A Team of South African Scientists May Have Just Bested Google in the Race for Cost Effective Solar Energy Researchers from Stellenbosch University are about to unveil a revolutionary model for affordable, transportable, concentrated solar power.
Our once-a-day email, The Daily GOOD, explores and amplifies the best in grassroots initiatives, up-and-coming organizations, and inspiring ideas making small steps toward a big impact—if you haven't signed up yet, you're missing out. This year, The Daily GOOD unearthed hundreds of "good" things, but we've scaled that down to a few favorites on a variety of topics we love—like food, design, and giving back to the community.
This year saw the sustainable food movement taken more seriously than ever by big players in the private sector, most notably supermarkets. One rising star in the industry is BrightFarms, a startup that plans to open three greenhouses on the rooftops of chain supermarkets by the end of next year. The greatest part of this concept? Food miles are reduced to zero when you buy produce where it's grown.
In.gredients, one of the world's only packaging-free grocery stores, opening soon in Austin, Texas.
Whether you're looking to make an infographic, street art, or both, this handy and customizable toolkit has you covered. Created by artist Golan Levin, Infoviz Graffiti lets aspiring data artists quickly create a pie chart to cover walls in a message of their choice. Spray paint not included.
The Tidy Street Project from Brighton, England, where a group of neighbors document their daily electricity use by adding data to a giant infographic painted on the street.
The Sustainable Prisons Project
Beekeeping has been trendy among foodies for a while now, but in 2011 it caught on in the cellblock. The Sustainable Prisons Project is a collaboration between Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and four of the 15 prisons maintained by the Washington State Department of Corrections. The goal is to "help reduce the environmental, economic, and human costs of prisons by inspiring and informing sustainable practices." In addition to maintaining apiaries, felons stay busy composting and tending organic farms.
Midtown Buzz, a beekeeping-as-neighborhood improvement project in London that hosted a competition to redesign the beehive for urban settings.
Midwestern Bicyclists Saving Cities Money
It seems like a given that biking would save people money they might otherwise spend on health expenses, but this year scientists proved it. An article by researchers at the University of Wisconsin showed that switching from automobiles to bicycles for short trips around cities in the upper Midwest would create a net societal health benefit of more than $7 billion. Maybe 2012 will be the year that politicians start to take note, too.
Bike Fixtation, a bike-part vending machine that provides Minneapolis' booming bicycle community a quick and easy way to score patch kits and bike lights whenever they may need them.
The Dumpster House
One man's trash is another man's treasure. In Berkeley, California, the saying apparently extends to trash receptacles, too, what with designer Gregory Kloehn building a one-person dream house out of a dumpster. Despite the dumpster's small size, Kloehn didn't skimp on the amenities: The house comes complete with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. For now, the house remains a design experiment, but Kloehn says his goal was to "make [the home] nice enough that perhaps someone would like to live in it."
The Dumpster Drive, a concept app that lets users share the contents of their computers' trash folders.
Internet via Light Bulbs
WiFi is great, of course, but it's not a bummer-free technology. When lots of people connect to the same signal, speed drops, and electromagnetic waves probably aren't the best thing for our health. But a new invention called D-Light, by German physicist Harald Haas, imagines a future where super-fast internet is transmitted through LED light bulbs. The idea is in its infancy now, but it could eventually open up a world of high-tech possibilities.
An electricity free light bulb, Liter of Light, uses plastic bottles to illuminate the homes of the global poor.
A Car-Crushing Mayor
"I’ve had enough of these drivers parking their luxury cars on bike lanes and pedestrian crossings," said Arturas Zuokas, mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania. Then he put his money where his mouth was and crushed the offending Mercedes with an armored vehicle, making a bold statement about what happens to misbehaving vehicles on his watch. Sure, it was an absurd stunt, but one that underscored the way that many bikers feel when cars encroach on their precious real estate.
The Hummer House, a microhome made out of torn up Hummers.
Snail Mail My Email
In August, San Francisco-based designer Ivan Cash proposed a public art project: If you sent him an email intended for a friend or lover, he'd transcribe it in his handwriting and send it along via snail mail. The project caught on, and thousands of strangers submitted email over the course of the project's month-long run. Unable to field all the correspondence himself, Cash recruited 134 volunteers from around the world to help.
Emotional Bag Check, a web service for the drama-afflicted to ask strangers for the perfect song to help cope with any situation.
Global Village Construction Set
What are the essential machines and equipment needed to create a functioning albeit minimalist society? The machinist collective Open Source Ecology has narrowed the list down to the "50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comfort." The idea is to create a "Lego set" of interchangeable parts that anyone could use to replicate the machinery they need, giving people the power to create communes that could be built completely off-the-grid, from scratch.
In London, Films on Fridges assembled a pop-up movie theater from a mountain of discarded refrigerators.
Knitting Behind Bars
Knitting can turn yarn into a sweater, but can it transform a harsh prison sentence into something more peaceful? Lynn Zwerling thought so, so in 2009 she piloted the program Knitting Behind Bars at the Jessup, Maryland, Pre-Release Unit, a low-security prison. Nearly three years later, the program is 500 members strong, and participating prisoners look forward to their two hours a week with Zwerling and her volunteers. "If you look at them, they’re covered with tattoos, they’re rough looking, and many of the young guys don't have all their teeth," says Zwerling. "But it doesn't feel rough. They’re very respectful and grateful and very happy to knit."