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December 21, 2012 at 2:05 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

The Best of NatuREport 2012: the Trends, the Innovations, and the Bizarre

From the NatuREport Blog Series

Well, folks, the earth is still on its axis, so I guess we can look forward to 2013! It certainly has a lot to live up to. Though we're not doing great on the greenhouse gas front, 2012 did bring us some pretty awesome green trends and innovations - and also had more than its fair share of the bizarre. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite NatuREport stories in all three categories:

1. "Green" Clothing

Back in January, Colin Firth's wife Livia caused quite a stir when she wore a dress made of recycled bottles to the Golden Globes - and it hardly looked like a craft project. The dress was made from yarn spun by a company called Newlife, and had its origins in recycling bins all over Italy. "New life," indeed! (Read the original story here.)

2. The Zero-Trash Family

Since littering is apparently more taboo than cheating on your taxes, it would probably behoove all of us to find ways to reduce our trash output. One California family is taking that to the extreme: they produce just two handfuls of trash per year. This is the story which first introduced me to compostable toothbrushes, which I've since discovered are really awesome. (Read the original story here.)

3. Tiny Houses

Most people measure their house's square footage in the thousands. However, there's a growing movement of people who can measure theirs in hundreds - and even the tens. Pretty much the ultimate in green living, these tiny beauties may be small in size, but they're big in style. (Read the original tiny-house story here; read about shipping-container houses here.)

1. Landfill Harmonic

A dirt-poor community built on top of a Paraguayan landfill is quite literally turning trash into music. The work of some ingenious local craftsmen has allowed them to take the garbage under their town and make it into beautiful instruments - and for the first time, the kids in the town have a chance at a great future. To date, this is the only NatuREport story to bring a tear to my eye. (Read the original story here.)

2. The 3-D Printer that Runs on Recycling

I've been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately, and I always find it fascinating the type of advanced technology the writers come up with for stories that take place in the distant future. 3-D printing could fit right into many of those stories - it's the sort of technology I never would have believed had I not seen demonstrations of what it can do. Being able to print out just about anything sounds like the stuff of sci-fi, but it's very much real. Even cooler? The Filabot, a new invention that turns plastic into raw material for 3-D printing. (Read the original story here.)

3. Cardboard Bikes

This was one of those inventions that just shouldn't have worked - at least according to engineers. Thankfully, though, Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni didn't listen to the naysayers. In one of my favorite stories of the year, he proved not only that cardboard bikes could work, but also that they could be superior to metal bikes and revolutionize the third world at the same time. Gafni, NatuREport salutes you. (Read the original story here.)

1. "Matrix" Chickens

The fate of chickens raised for meat is pretty much universally acknowledged to be awful, but architecture student Andre Ford managed to find a way to make it even more disturbing. His proposal involves removing chickens' feet and all of their senses, and growing them in a creepy Matrix-like web. (Read the original story here, if you dare.)

2. Petri-dish Meat

Piggybacking off of the Matrix chickens in creepy food news is the development of meat grown completely in a lab in a petri dish, and then "exercised" by being mechanically bent and stretched. It's hard to argue with the environmental benefits of this technology - but it's still weirdly disconnected from nature, landing it firmly in the "bizarre" category for me. (Read the original story here.)

3. Patio Furniture made from Diapers

If you can get over the "yuck" factor, this story is actually kind of a triumph of ingenious recycling. Canadian company Knowaste has begun a project in which they sanitize used diapers and feminine hygiene products and turn them into all kinds of things: shingles, benches, building name it. Gross? Maybe - but you can't say it's not smart. (Read the original story here.)

Bring it on, 2013!

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  • A great year full of great stories from NatuREport!

    Your blogs have helped spark a lot of interesting conversations. Where do you find all this stuff?!

    Can't wait to see what you'll have for us all in 2013, Laura! :)

  • Hey, my husband just built a snack bar from left over wood he had laying around and he used a set of deer antlers for the drawer handles! I thought it was a genius idea!

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