Asparagus turbines and car-eating buses: the best green innovations of the week

In a week which shockingly revealed that humans are damaging the environment faster than it can recover, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that could mitigate current impacts put the world on a 2C pathway.

As the world’s ability to absorb human lifestyles shifts from an impenetrable rock to a rusting sieve, more people are starting to question the dystopian world that they could soon find themselves.

The current trajectory suggest this would be more Fallout than Bladerunner, but in London, Planet of the Apes seems the most likely future after the Body Shop unveiled an innovative and monkey-shaped way to regenerate damaged forests.

Most fingers are itching to point towards the fossil fuel industry when inciting blame, but as this week proved, the sector remains gleefully content with taking resources from the ground so they can bury their heads in it at the mention of climate reporting.

But with firms such as Microsoft and London Black Club continuing to ramp up sustainable production all hope is not lost. To inspire further hope, edie has pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

The car-eating bus that Pacman and Snake built

Nestled within China’s swelling population, dirty city air and dormant power plants is the Beijing International High-Tech Expo, which this week unveiled a new “car-eating” mega bus that could revolutionise travel infrastructure in major cities.

Designer Song Youzhou has presented a live model of the concept of a bus that can take the place of 40 regular buses as it shuttles 1,400 people around the city. The behemoth, which would be restricted to 37pmh, can actually streamline traffic by overtaking – and being overtaken – cars by passing over them as it utilises a rolling tunnel that the passenger cabin sits on top of.

At 7ft tall, the tunnel-on-wheels would decrease the amount of time spent idling and traffic and also utilises electric vehicle batteries to save 800 tonnes of fuel and 2,480 tons of carbon emissions each year.

Superfood – not Superman – will save Indonesia

As edie reported earlier this week in our 10 things you probably didn’t know about green energy jobs, the Indonesian biofuel industry has effectively collapsed. With issues over palm oil sourcing wreaking havoc in the country, a new government-run program has turned to tofu to provide energy and rejuvenate the biogas sector.

Even after making chef Jamie Oliver fall in love, tofu has been a sort of enigma in the food world. But now tofu – which is made by soaking and grinding soybeans to separate milk from pulp – may finally be able to live up to its tag as ‘superfood’.

Indonesia is currently sending tankers around to collect the large quantities of waste water produced when making tofu and treating it with bacteria to produce biogas, which is then pumped back to the thousands of families that produce tofu yields. The concept has proved so successful that there is now a waiting list for digester installations – even though the Government has already installed 20,000.

Get drunk and feed the ocean!

As Global Action Plan told edie last week, “climate change and polar bears don’t change behaviours”. Despite the claim, a quick browse through social media will highlight all sorts of example of polar bears stuck on small sheets of ice as part of the ongoing ‘climate porn’ agenda.

Another tried and tested emotive image that often crops up on both Twitter and Facebook, is that of a fish or turtle with its head stuck in discarded six pack rings. While an image won’t stop six pack rings adding to the plastic soup of our oceans, beer makers in Delray Beach, just north of Miami, might have the answer.

Saltwater Brewery is now selling edible six pack rings made from waste barley and wheat remnants that are leftover during the brewing process. By partnering with NY-based ad agency We Believers, the brewery has developed a mechanism that “instead of killing animals, feeds them”. While this does seem like a case of treating the symptoms rather than the cause, it’s nice to sea life get a taste for drunken nightlife too.

Oscillating asparagus adds to the energy equation

If human beings are only ever considered one thing, it’s that they are consistent in their moaning. Summers too hot, winters too cold, solar panels look like my Nan’s bathroom tiles and wind turbines kill birds.

So what if there was a way to produce energy from wind without having to replicate windmills in a way that doesn’t damage any birds. For Spanish company Vortex Bladeless, this is the new reality because it’s developed a bladeless “asparagus” turbine that generates electricity by dancing.

More a Dad’s wedding dance than what you’ll see on Britain’s Got Talent, but nonetheless these turbines use whirling masses of air to create electricity by attracting whirlwinds. Using repelling magnet rings at its base the turbine creates kinetic energy and because it lacks gears and bolts it has a much smaller carbon footprint during construction.

The three green musketeers: glass, wood and steel

Next generation is always an exciting phrase for tech lovers. Next-gen consoles for the gamers, next gen smartphones for people who spend too much time on Instagram and next gen wood for, well the future.

Scientists at the University of Maryland’s College Park have developed the next generation of wood, which can act as substitute to both wood and glass, be used to develop solar cells that are 30% more efficient and exceed the strength of steel; all because it’s ‘invisible’.

By taking lignin from vascular plants and injecting the veins of wood with a type of epoxy, researchers have been able to produce invisible wood that can improve insulation for homes. With the construction industry looking for new breakthrough technologies, a number of companies have already contacted the researchers about examining the wood for mass production.

The smoking building blocks of the future

A walk down Oxford Street last summer would have quite literally shown you the ongoing chewing gum and litter issues in the UK and across the globe. While Hubbub has turned to giant cigarette silhouettes to highlight the cigarette butt issue, a researcher from the RMIT University in Melbourne has a more long-term strategy.

The researcher Dr. Abbas Mohajerani has been “dreaming” of future that eliminates cigarette waste by using it to create bricks. While Dr Mohajerani didn’t reveal it was the a sweet dream or a nightmare, he did claim that mixing butts into traditional clay bricks would reduce the energy required to manufacture the product by 58%.

On top of this Mohajerani has also researched the stability of the bricks and has found that they are better at insulating and would cut energy costs for heating and cooler; they’re also easier to transport due to their light weight. Despite still being a smoke-pipe dream, research has revealed that if the material replaced a little more than 2% of global brick production, it would offset the entire waste produced by cigarette butts.

LISTEN to the green innovation of the week in edie’s latest podcast

The ‘Innovation Zone’ is a new feature in the latest episode of edie’s Sustainable Business Covered podcast.

Join edie editor Luke Nicholls and the team as they explore the latest green business trends and developments in this podcast from

Listen to episode two of the podcast for free here.

Matt Mace

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