A non-profit, United Nations accredited charity organisation, IDEAS For Us, organised a three-day ‘hackathon’, with Orlando-based digital creative agency – Purple, Rock, Scissors (PRPL) – to form their new web solutions platform, www.ideasforus.org.
The platform was presented was presented to Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 31 as part of a two-day summit held by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
The web platform at www.ideasforus.org , which garnered a Solution Award from the Vatican itself, showcases environmental problem-solving programs happening both locally and internationally for citizens to join in, and gives everyone the chance to support action-based solutions being brought to life. “There is a great moral obligation that we have to take action in achieving the most ambitious goals ever set forth by humanity, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” IDEAS Executive Director Clayton Louis Ferrara states. “What is at stake, halting climate change, the eradication of poverty, slavery, and mass extinction, has been a dream until now. We, as Millennials, hold the fate of the world in our hands. We need global solutions generated through local action and we need it now. The Solutions Platform and IDEAS For Us, with PRPL’s expertise, is poised to lead the way for the many millions that need to follow.” Besides conveying info about the organisation itself, the website presents a list of sustainable goals, a rundown of its various sustainability programs showing scalability and impact, methods to donate, as well as a sampling of nearly 90 actionable solutions (and counting) for a variety of vital ecological factors including water, food, waste and energy.
For the hackathon, Ferrara and IDEAS’ Website Director/Engineer Ryan Harrigan collaborated with eight PRPL staffers over the course of three days. The goal was to create a launch-pad to incubate more successful sustainability projects like IDEAS’ Fleet Farming, which helps Orlando citizens, among other things, maintain better eating habits and utilize lawn spaces more effectively in their urban environment. “One of the largest benefits of this hackathon was having leaders of IDEAS for Us with us at all times to inform and ideate with us, then make an executive decision on the spot so we could move forward,” says PRPL Digital Strategist Tommy Hung. “They had a wealth of information and experience with challenges in their space that we could pull from, and they were passionate about making something that would help their audience.”
Collaborating with the IDEAS team helped PRPL clearly define the organisation’s goals and formulate strategy while informing design decisions for the web platform. Hung notes that the quick turnaround demanded an almost equally fast-paced development process for the site itself. “We had very little time to take something very complex—trying to save the world—and turn it into a working online model,” he says. “Workshopping with IDEAS for Us lead to the strategy needed to create a simple, concise and functional site. But the time it takes to design and develop beautiful visuals and animations is normally longer than a weekend, and we had to distill a very broad scope of work and messaging spanning IDEAS’ network of over 20 countries around the world into a communicable site. That said, we’re very proud of what we were able accomplish.”
The platform is part of an effort to present sustainability solutions to Pope Francis at an SDSN summit, which IDEAS attended thanks to a heartfelt essay penned by Ferrara himself. The project mirrors the sentiments of the Pope himself, who the Vatican says is very concerned with the issue and is the first-ever pontiff to acknowledge climate change and demand action. It’s a worthy cause that PRPL is also passionate about. “PRPL wants to help equip IDEAS with a more informative and inspiring hub for their digital presence that would enable anyone interested to become a member, donate, or contribute an idea,” Hung explains. “We hope that through the new solutions platform, they can achieve their membership and funding goals to fuel their growth and action around the world.”
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.