Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
November 18th, 2014

Fourteen flooring tiles from London-based clean-tech company Pavegen Systems were installed outside the Saint-Omer subway station in northern France. The tiles, each roughly 7 by 24 inches, generate renewable electricity from the otherwise wasted energy of footsteps.

When a walker’s foot makes contact with the tile, it bends inappreciably, depressing an average of five millimeters each step and creating approximately seven watts of converted kinetic energy in the process. The slabs, made from 100 percent recycled rubber, can store energy for up to 72 hours via small built-in batteries.

The concept was conceived in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, then a graduate student in industrial design at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.

The concept was conceived in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, then a graduate student in industrial design at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.

“I realized that although wind and solar alternatives were progressing exponentially, they were inefficient in urban environments due to high-rise infrastructure and pollution,” he says. “Given that 60 percent of the world’s population would be residing in urban environments by 2030, I decided to investigate further. I discovered footfall as an untapped, renewable resource that is efficient, constant, and literally all around us, to be used when and where it is needed.”

The tiles were also installed at the Simon Langton Grammar school in Kent, UK. Check out the students’ reaction to this exciting new technology:

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This is a win-win situation for all involved: the students who get inspired to think of ways to contribute to a smarter planet at a very young impressionable age, the company looking to expand operations into different venues to capture greener energy production, and, of course, the entrepreneur who profits from this great new technology!

What a great world we live in – that young minds can shape a very (literally) bright future!



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We study history in order to (theoretically) keep us from repeating mistakes of the past.  The great potato famine in Ireland is one of the tragedies of the modern world that is often discussed in schools.  Definitely NOT one of the mistakes we want to revisit in the 21st century!

We’re in the midst of technological breakthroughs aimed at keeping more of the world’s population fed with less of the earth’s dwindling resources being expended.  Here’s a story about potatoes, out of Amsterdam, that may surprise you:

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution

The set-up of the research station has been developed by Dr. Arjen de Vos.

Inspired by sea cabbage, 59-year-old Marc van Rijsselberghe set up Salt Farm Texel and teamed up with the Free University in Amsterdam, which sent him Dr Arjen de Vos to look at the possibility of growing food using non-fresh water.

If the experiment works and the potatoes adapt to the Asian climate, it could transform the lives of not only small farmers in Pakistan and Bangladesh,, where floods and sea water intrusion wipe out crops with increasing regularity, but also worldwide the 250 million people who live on salt-afflicted soil.

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November 7th, 2014

For those of us fortunate enough to have been granted the full use of all of our limbs throughout all of our life, it is nearly impossible to understand the challenges faced daily by those who don’t have unlimited mobility.  There are numerous charities around the world that work tirelessly to collect funds for research.  There are countless hospitals and clinics staffed by caregivers and rehabilitation specialists.

This story is about the brilliant work of a man whose own physical abilities have been reduced – and his gift of new mobility to others who need a helping (robotic) hand…

The ReWalk Device


Invented by Dr. Goffer, the Founder and President and Chief Technical Officer of ReWalk Robotics, the ReWalk allows paraplegics to stand upright, walk and in some cases climb stairs.  He is a graduate of Technion University in Israel.  An Israeli inventor who became quadriplegic after an ATV accident in 1997, it was through his own personal experience in utilizing mobility devices for people with spinal cord injury that Dr. Goffer developed the ReWalk.

Read the press coverage and be inspired!!! This is the use of technology for a truly unselfish and humane cause.  You can make this kind of a difference in the world, too!

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November 6th, 2014

A 5,500-year-old leather shoe was discovered in a cave in Armenia in 2010. It makes you think long and hard about just how many shoes you really need to keep up with fashion and the burden they leave behind when the next must-have shoe design comes into fashion!

Downcycling is a new term I just read about. It’s different than recycling in that the process takes a used product, deconstructs all of its different parts, and then utilizes the individual deconstructed parts in a new way. This process claims to reduce the necessity of using fresh raw materials, which, in turn, reduces energy usage to manufacture those fresh raw materials, thereby reducing air pollution and water pollution.

The footwear industry is jumping on this new process. One company in particular, the LYF (Love your Footprint) shoe can be taken apart and remade without losing quality. You can’t help but love that name, right?

Inspired by Japanese Shinto temples that can be taken apart and moved, the LYF shoe is made of pieces that slot together a bit like Lego, without the need for glue. Not only are the these shoes made responsibly, they are custom made for each customer and made to fit your feet – you choose from a variety of sustainable & artisan textiles!

“To be truly sustainable you have to design for disassembly. If you put glue into the mix you cause problems in the reuse,” the designer, Aly Khalifa, says.


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Check out some additional styles here.

For all of you engineers out there, does this inspire you to find a product that can be disassembled and remade into something else useful for its second life?

Other news in the footwear industry:

Nike developed an open source app to help designers assess their environmental impact and has been running a reuse–a-shoe scheme since the 1990s, grinding old trainers into pellets that are used to surface running tracks.

Gucci sold a collection of shoes made from bio-plastic – a biodegradable material used as an alternative to petrochemical plastic.

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The 2014 Sustainia Awards, chaired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, attracted more than 900 submissions for projects and technologies representing 10 different sectors from food, fashion, city development, transportation, and healthcare. Collectively, these projects are deployed in more than 84 countries. You can submit your winning ideas for 2015 – see the bottom of this post.

Nigerian Pedal-Powered Recycling Initiative Takes 2014 Sustainia Award for Best Sustainability Solution

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Here are the 9 runners up:

1. Food finalist: Netafim (Israel) – gravity-powered irrigation

This irrigation system increases and secures yields while saving water and cutting costs. It drips precise quantities of water and nutrients right at the root zone of crops while an elevated tank distributes the water using gravity.

2. Transportation finalist: 8D technologies (Canada) – bike sharing app

The Spotcycle app from 8D technologies aims to make bike-sharing more convenient and smartphone-friendly.

3. Buildings finalist: Advantix (USA) – air-conditioners which use saltwater

Advantix’s air conditioning system uses saltwater which means it needs 40% less energy than normal systems.

4. Fashion finalist: I:CO (Switzerland) – textile recycling

Through an advanced take-back system, I:CO works to keep apparel, footwear and other textiles in a continuous closed-loop cycle.

5. IT Finalist: Fairphone (Netherlands) – A smart-phone with social values

Through development, design and production, social enterprise Fairphone works to create positive social impact in the consumer electronics supply chain – from responsible mining, decent wages and working conditions to reuse and recycling.

6. Health finalist: We Care Solar (USA) – solar suitcases giving life

The Solar Suitcase provides solar electricity for medical lighting, mobile communication and essential medical devices for rural areas and humanitarian settings. This enables safe and timely obstetric care, which ultimately improves maternal and neonatal outcomes.

7. Resource finalist: Newlight Tech (USA) – carbon-negative plastic

With its novel technology that converts greenhouse gases into plastic material, AirCarbon has disrupted the market by replacing oil-based plastics with a sustainable product that is competitive in both price and performance.

8. Education finalists: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (Bangladesh) – school boats combatting climate change

By building a fleet of solar-powered school boats, the Bangladeshi initiative Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has secured year-round education in flood-prone regions of Bangladesh.

9. Energy Finalists: Opower (USA) – personal energy-efficient expert

The software solution combines cloud technology, big data and behavioral science to produce data analyses and personalised information on how to save energy.

Read all about these sustainability innovations here.

Do you have a great new idea on sustainability – find out how you can submit for the next round of finalists to be announced in the fall of 2015 – you may even take home the top prize!


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