Optimism for the Week – Great Solutions to Wicked Problems

It has been a bit tough trying to focus on the positive and finding optimism in the current climate.  While I am certainly hoping for a specific result from the upcoming election, I will be as equally happy when we get past it as the hourly doom cycle of news and reports is enough to depress anyone.  I don’t know if I just need to find a way to get out of the house for a bit (in a safe and responsible matter), but my energy levels certainly have not been where they usually are.  That is why I want to focus on a couple of great articles I have come across in the past couple of weeks that offer up some innovative solutions to some of the real problems we face in the world.  Hopefully reading about them will help rejuvenate a little bit of optimism for you, as it did for me.

Carbon Negative Utensils

Newlight, a biotech company, has developed a material that uses methane to make everything from utensils to purses to glasses through the application of microbes.  When the material is used to make a disposable fork or straw and that item ends up in the ocean, it will degrade easily into cellulose, becoming a food source for other microbes.  Basically, they are taking a potent contributor to climate change, methane, and not only removing it from the atmosphere but turning it into a useful material that helps address the issue of ocean plastic.

Newlight has experimented with turning the material into everything from furniture to packaging, but has decided to initially focus on impactful areas like making replacements for single-use straws and cutlery.  Items that have been a big part of our lives for a while, but of which we have become more aware as we have all made more use of takeout and delivery options for food.  Their next step is in launching a separate brand called Covalent to produce handbags and wallets from this new material.

A great innovative solution to a problem that most of us are contributing to. You can read the full article at Fast Company here.

When is a Parking Lot a Co-Working Space

We have known for a while that our current office spaces were not well designed for our overall health needs, and that was before the arrival of Covid-19.  The co-working start-up, Second Home, offers a great example of how offices can be redesigned.

In Los Angeles, the company renovated a historic building to create conventional work spaces, but also leased 50,000 square feet of  parking lot space in order to add something truly innovative to the project.  They tore up the asphalt and laid down 700 tons of soil and vegetation, including 115 different species of plants and trees, and then amid all the greenery they built 60 “garden offices”.

The “garden offices” are bean shaped and designed for a few workers apiece – the ultimate in social distancing.  Rather than being hit with recirculated air, each office pulls fresh air independently, offering the comforts of shelter with the sensation of being in nature.  The mayor’s office in L.A. has cited the former parking lot as the densest urban forest in the city at this point.  While there are some limits to how this could be rolled out to other areas due to local climates, there are definitely a number of areas in the country where something like this could work and who knows what some bright thinkers could come up with for colder climate areas.  You can read the full article at Fast Company here.

That’s all for this week – hopefully it has injected a little optimism to your week.

The Free Range Viking

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