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How Do We Not Trash the Place?

Innovation has sometimes come at the expense of sustainability. We need to find creative solutions to our past mistakes, and doubly creative ways of avoiding future problems.

Rapid innovation has sometimes come at the expense of long-term sustainability, so we now must find creative solutions to our past mistakes, and doubly creative ways of avoiding future problems.When great ideas strike the next generation, the lightbulb that illuminates their heads will mostly likely be a compact fluorescent.The incandescent light bulb has been a symbol of modernity ever since Thomas Edison filed for a patent in 1879. Its iconic shape is synonymous with industry and progress, but ironically, rampant and unchecked industrial progress is what has necessitated the carbon-saving redesign. With compact fluorescents emerging as the leading sustainable lighting technology, the question becomes: Why do they look so funny? That twisty tube is filled with a gas that emits UV radiation when you flip the switch. A phosphorous compound that coats the inside of the tube then converts the radiation into visible light. The spiral simply allows for more tube in a smaller space.
The soon-to-be-iconic spiral of a CFL is necessitated by the design of its glowing tubes.CFLs now produce pleasant and more efficient lighting than traditional bulbs. As industries and retailers continue to push for their adoption, CFLs will become commonplace and familiar, until eventually incandescent bulbs start to look antiquated. If you can't abide the luminous squiggle and insist on miring your aesthetic preference in the past, you can now buy a capsule CFL bulb: The same spiral technology, but encased in a modesty bubble that looks as elegant as the old, unrecyclable, energy-guzzling classic.-RACHEL ABRAMS


Design isn't limited to objects: Complex systems like major cities benefit from smart design too, especially in pursuit of becoming cleaner and more energy efficient. Last May, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, announced that all vehicles in the city's taxi fleet would be hybrids by 2012. In this, the hundredth year of New York's yellow cab, there are already more than 300 hybrid cabs in service. These advanced Ford and Toyota SUVs and sedans signal the end of the ubiquitous yellow Crown Victoria. But new emissions and mileage standards for the city's yellow cabs are part of the city's goal to halve cab emissions within the next 10 years.


Urban bike sharing is part of a crop of design innovations predicated on sharing rather than keeping ideas and resources to ourselves. Bike-share operations that rely on a range of technologies-from smart card readers to collect payment to customized Google mapping applications that report the real-time availability of bikes for hire-are already proliferating in Europe. Climbing on the two-wheeled bandwagon, New York's Forum for Urban Design has just partnered with the Storefront for Art and Architecture to run a five-day exploration of options for introducing similar bike-sharing schemes to New York. The outcomes are documented at


The Heineken World Bottle was a noble (but failed) attempt at designing for a more sustainable future. Conceived in 1960, the square bottles were easily stackable, like bricks, so that 1,000 empty beers could build a 10-foot-by-10-foot shack. Sadly, the idea never made it into production.
Holly's pick:When we realize our dependence on petroleum raises the waters in Bangladesh, we reframe our sense of the space we occupy; When we consider the effect of plastics on our great grandkids, we shift our sense of time. The Home Joule, which monitors your house's energy consumption in real time, is part of a growing trend in elective accountability, where we're invited to modulate our consumption in response to something deeper than our own lifespan.-HOLLY KRETSCHMAR

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