Conventional solar panels use photovoltaic technology to convert the sun's UV rays into electricity, in some ways similar to the photosynthesis of the leaves on a tree. But the energy in any wind buffeting those solar panels is not captured. Conventional windmills have the opposite advantage and disadvantage: They are able to convert wind energy into electricity, but any UV light that strikes and warms up their broad surfaces, dissipates into the surrounding atmosphere, without being transferred to the local electrical grid. If only we could combine the advantages of both solar panels and windmill blades, into a single technology.
Teresita and Samuel Cochran, sister and brother, teamed up to do exactly that, in the form of small solar panels that can be attached to any vertical surface, with each lightweight panel hanging independently and thus able to flutter in the breeze. Each panel is equipped with a series of piezoelectric generators — located on its underside — that convert the panel's movement into electricity. The panels are available in several colors and opacities, and are manufactured from 100 percent recyclable polyethylene. They can be added in any number to the side of a building, starting with a small cluster, which could later be expanded to cover the entire structure — similar to the growth of ivy, which provided inspiration for the design.
The project is thus appropriately known as GROW, and is the result of work done at SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology), a relatively new company dedicated to creating sustainable design ideas and applying them to usable technologies. In an interview with Ecolect, Teresita, CEO and cofounder of SMIT, noted that she became involved in the project while researching alternative power, as part of her Masters program in interactive technology, at NYU. She collaborated with Samuel, a student at Pratt Industrial Design whose industrial design thesis project combined solar and wind energy, in the form of these innovative panels.
As a startup firm with limited funding, SMIT has yet to attract large-scale commercial interest, production, and distribution. But the innovative project is certainly capable of gaining widespread acceptance and usage. At this time, a concept prototype, GROW.1, is on display at MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art), in the exhibit "Design and the Elastic Mind", until 12 May 2008. A residential application, GROW.2, is built on stainless steel mesh, thereby making it possible for ivy and other crawlers to grow between the panels and the outside wall of the building.
Brooklyn-based SMIT hopes to make the GROW product available to consumers through a number of retail channels, including select stores, sometime during the next two years. The product should prove quite successful, especially after the firm integrates into it an energy monitoring system, known as WATTg, which will make it possible for customers to track the amount of energy generated by their GROW systems.
When eco-conscious parents are shopping for clothing for their infants, they are typically disappointed by the offerings found in conventional clothing and department stores, where price and marketing pressures take far more precedence over protecting the environment. Such stores usually stock clothing made in overseas sweatshops from decidedly non-organic materials, including chemical-based dyes. The fact that parents are urged to launder brand-new clothing before it comes into contact with their children's skin, should be enough to alert conscientious parents to seek out healthier alternatives. One place to find them is the eco--friendly clothier Can You Dig It?, which makes available an extensive range of attractive organic apparel — mostly for babies, but also long-sleeve T-shirts for adults. The company bills itself as "Organic Fashion for the Environmentally Aware", and that is certainly an accurate description. All of the shirts are sweatshop-free, and made in the United States of top-quality organic materials. The shirts are quite colorful, but not through the use of harsh dyes, and the designs reflect the themes of gardening — such as seedlings and ladybugs. The company was founded in Ojai, California, in 2004, by Stephanie Wood, who was profoundly influenced by her upbringing in Los Angeles, during the 1960s. Her mom was a dedicated health-food nut who is passionate about taking care of one's body through nutritious food (including homegrown organic foods), and taking care of the planet. Stephanie continues this tradition of ecology and quality, in the products that she offers online and in 20 US states and Canada. So visit the Web site of Can You Dig It? today, and root up some wonderful organic apparel for your "little spuds" so they will be fully outfitted for a day digging in the garden or helping you pick out organic foods at your local health food store.
How would you like to explore the captivating products made by artisans all over the world, and be able to support those hard-working people, from the convenience of your Web browser? You can, at Gifts With Humanity, which offers a wide assortment of unique and fair trade handicrafts, from an equally varied number of countries — literally from A to Z: Argentina to Zimbabwe! The firm is located in Edgewater, Florida, but was originally formed in Kisumu, in Western Kenya (on the shores of Lake Victoria). Founders Kevin Ward and his wife were VSO and Peace Corps volunteers, respectively, from the fields of information technology and business development. They originally got started selling handicrafts in 2001, by forming Global Crafts, which sells to wholesale customers. Years later, they reached out to the retail customer via Gifts With Humanity. These organizations are members of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) and the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT); only a handful of American companies have achieved this. Global Crafts is an excellent example of how a business can achieve commercial success (with sales exceeding $850,000 in 2007), and remained true to their values of fair trade, quality merchandise, and support of artisans worldwide. Now you can do the same by shopping at Gifts With Humanity.
Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.