Pee power and air-cleaning stalagmites: the best green innovations of the week

After Her Majesty spent the build-up to her 90th birthday listing off some of the most innovative and sustainable companies in the UK, edie rounds up the latest green innovations looking to stake their claim to the throne of the oncoming low-carbon kingdom.

Locking herself away in a dainty room in Buckingham Palace, the Queen listed 243 companies in her Enterprise Awards this week. As well as missing numerous Corgi feeding times, Her Majesty probably skimmed through the launch of the aesthetically awkward Solar Impulse 2.

While the new Impulse model utilises the sun to continue its journey around the world, edie has attempted to rain on the Queen’s parade by launching its own – and undisputedly better innovation competition – where one pioneering company will be announced as the winner at edie Live next month.

While last week’s innovation round-up brought you flying carpets and innovative bus shelters, this week has seen big companies doodle angelic wings or devil horns all over their corporate images. But today edie has pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

Urine for a treat with new renewable energy

Unless you’re Donald Trump or newly-pronounced scientist Sarah Palin, it’s pretty common knowledge that the majority of climate change has been caused by mankind. So, of course, in an attempt to find a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card, mankind has developed a way to create renewable energy from its own body; specifically from urine.

Soon, smartphones and tablets could be run on ‘pee-power’ after a team of researchers at the University of Bath revealed a low-cost, urine-powered fuel cell capable of running electronic devices. Just make sure you wash your hands after playing Angry Birds.

Does a Panda poo in the zoo?

This next innovation has been deliberately placed at number two on this list. Toronto Zoo, famous for its pandas ‘Da Mao’ and ‘Er Shun’, looks set to power its operations with local grocery store waste and more than 3,000 tonnes of animal waste.

Imagine taking a trip on the “Conservation Carousel” ride powered by the poo from the very panda that you previously watched do precisely nothing for 10 minutes. While the likes of pandas and giraffes will be responsible for the majority of poo-power, we at edie are concerned about how much waste the southern hairy-nosed wombat is producing to validate being heated by panda Poo.

Men (and solar powered probes) are from Mars

You’ll be glad to hear we’re moving away from toiletry habits for now. In fact we’re moving so far away that we’re actually off into the solar system. NASA’s newfound interest in green innovation has seen it back advanced solar-electric propulsion technology as a means to explore the solar system and direct robots to Mars.

By converting solar energy into electricity, NASA hopes that its $67m investment will improve fuel efficiency for space travel by ten times the current standard. While Martians will undoubtedly be impressed by our solar-powered devices, we’re not sure how they’ll react to our urine-powered smartphones.

The house that hemp built

For the past few days, the staff at edie have been marvelling over a new parking barrier which was rather noisily installed on Wednesday. So the fact that sustainable builders Green Built have unveiled a new hemp-built house has left us utterly speechless – apart from when the editor talks about his trips to the garden centre.

HempHome: Tiny+ is a new kickstarter fund aimed at creating a “breathable” home that eliminates the carbon footprint of the building across its lifespan. The HempHome is another example of plant-based materials entering the limelight. Although we doubt the editor will let us experiment on his prized rhododendrons any time soon.

The sustainable communities strike back

If a tiny HempHome isn’t for you then you may want to turn to architecture firm ZED Factory, which has unveiled a slightly larger housing concept. In essence, the ZED Pod is about dressing up homes with stilts and solar panelled skeletons to create a sustainable AT-AT Walker from Star Wars.

While these homes haven’t been tested in the icy regions of Hoth, they have been designed to turn car parks into sustainable communities. These communities would consist of solar panels, heat recovery ventilation systems, a green roof, composting toilets and grey water recycling systems.

The invisible killer’s eyesore nemesis

While the UK’s suburban carparks could soon be transformed into picturesque communities, the capital could be set for a different kind of facelift. London has an air quality problem and no amount of “Husky hugs” will change that any time soon. But what may make people stand up and take notice is a hulking skyscraper acting as a badge of dishonour.

This Air-Stalagmite is a pollution-sucking skyscraper that aims to clean the air of the most polluted cities in the world. Its unique design not only aids the cleaning process but also acts as a reminder that the city has an invisible killer in the air – similar to when dogs have to wear a lampshade-esque cone of shame around their necks.

Matt Mace

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