The future is a surreal shade of green. A glimpse into up-and-coming trends that will change the way we live includes washing-machine toilets, fitness-powered street lamps and home appliances, eco coffins and solar-powered ATMs. These are Oilprice.com’s top 5 picks for innovative, if not occasionally off-the-wall, eco inventions that have already gone beyond the concept phase but in most cases have a long road before they reach the average consumer. Most importantly, they are viable, not just interesting.
No. 1 Solar-Powered ATMs
Making their way as we speak across rural India and the Russian Far East, solar-powered ATMs deserve our top slot for innovation because they fill a real-time need and the target audience is not the upper middle class but the rural lower class. It has mass appeal and is commercially viable, especially for banks who can expand their outreach to remote places.
Of course, the motivation behind this invention was not an environmental one, but that’s also why it fits naturally into the scheme of things. It takes an old idea (bank machines) and makes it feasible in new areas. Rather than making solar happen, solar makes it happen. So, in terms of the latest in eco projects, this one is different because the demand is already there and it will sell itself.
According to the Asia Times, Vortex, a young Chennai-based company, is behind the development of the “Gramatellers”, of which the State Bank of India has already ordered 300, while 19 other banks are also installing them in rural Indian villages. Mid-July also saw the first solar-powered ATM installed in the Siberian region of Tuva. A Chinese company produced the solar batteries used to power the ATM, while the machine was assembled in Russia’s Novosibirsk.
No 2: Fitness-Powered Street Lights
While self-contained solar-powered street lights are a great innovation as they are cheap to install and require no underground wiring, with solar panels fixed atop extended arms to power LED lights, fitness-powered street lights are even more innovative.
Fitness-powered street lights are particularly fortuitous for a Western population that is a little slack on the exercise. This concept of “Energyme Streetlights” is being marketed by “Dido Studio”. Run on kinetic energy, in other words, power generated by motion, the streets lights harness calories burned by the community to power LED lampposts. It’s the perfect give and take relationship for the modern-day consumer.
Will it catch on? Well, it may take a while but the idea is out there and being put to use in a number of ways. British innovator Laurence Kemball-Cook has created some interesting “kinetic harvesting” technology that is already being implemented in the UK. Kemball-Cook has developed Pavegen slabs, the surface of which generates electricity when someone’s walks on it. These Pavegen slabs have been installed at the Westfield Stratford City shopping center, where each footstep generates five to eight joules of energy, depending on weight. Around 5% of that energy is used to illuminate the slab, while the rest is stored in a battery or used to power the surrounding area. The slabs are viable if used in a densely traversed area where they can actually generate enough power to redirect elsewhere. The slabs are produced from recycled rubber and polymer concrete and use what the 26-yeard-old Kemball-Cook calls a “hybrid” kinetic energy-harvesting system.
No 3: The Fitness-Powered Eco Washing Machine
Washing machines consume an enormous amount of electricity, and when we exercise, our calories burn off into some sort of energy black hold. The latest innovations in eco washing machines seek to harness those burned calories to power a washing machine. The Green Wash, by Saravanan Nagasundaram, hooks a stationary bicycle up to a washing machine. At home, this appliance allows the consumer to accomplish two things that often get sideline due to busy schedules: exercise and cleaning.
No 4: The Washing Machine Toilet
Not only do washing machines use a lot of electricity, they also use a lot of water, so here’s one way to ensure that the water is not wasted at least. WashUp, a concept developed by Sevin Coskun of Turkey, is a washing machine that is installed directly above your toilet. The water used by the washing machine is stored in the toilet tank and this recycling system completely eliminates the need for a fresh water source for your toilet. It’s also a great space saver for those with smaller bathrooms. We like this design because it is simple, smart and viable. And it’s certainly not off the wall.
No 5: The Eco Coffin
Even in death we leave an environmental footprint, and while it may seem morbid, the “eco coffin” is taking off. The average coffin is manufactured from chipboard covered with laminate that leads formaldehyde and glue into the groundwater, which in turn emits poisonous gases into the air. Eco coffins are completely biodegradable and manufactured entirely from recycled paper. From Africa to the United States, demand for the eco coffin is rising.
By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com
Jen Alic is a geopolitical analyst, co-founder of ISA Intel in Sarajevo and Tel Aviv, and the former editor-in-chief of ISN Security Watch in Zurich.