Subversive Designs for Sustainability

I just watched an interesting video about NYU Professor Natalie Jeremijenko, who is designing some environmental health interventions like:

o      a spring-loaded pair of high heels that increases people’s stride length by about 40% and makes walking more energy-efficient

o      a kit to hack a commercial robot dog toy so it “sniffs” out and pinpoints environmental threats such as radiation release

o      tadpoles for sale, named after local water commissioners, that people can raise as a way of assessing endocrine disrupter concentrations in their water supplies (tadpole development is exquisitely sensitive to endocrine disruptors)

o      a set of perches that each play a different sound file about avian health when birds land on them. The birds apparently learned to land preferentially on the perches that most effectively influenced people to leave food out for them.

o      Mini-parks created by tearing up the asphalt in no-parking zones and planting vegetation there. Emergency vehicles can still park there if necessary, but in the meantime the plants clean the air and provide habitat for birds and other animals.

o      Barn-raised inflatable greenhouses assembled on roofs that become part of the building’s HVAC system, helping to remove the CO2, toluene, benzene, and other toxins that tend to accumulate in the air of our increasingly well-sealed buildings.

Or check this out: a self-sufficient, carbon-neutral, walking house, inspired by the Gypsies and developed as way to question assumptions about land ownership, social organization, self-sufficiency. and ecological impact (

It includes solar panels and a mini-wind-turbine, and composts its own sewage into fertilizer that can be used in an (optional attached) greenhouse.

I thought these ideas were clever, subversive and fun, because they inspire and educate while at the same time producing tangible environmental benefits. 

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