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Materials

Plastic Waste in the Fuel Tank?

Consumer societies produce enough plastic waste to power at least 10% of motorized road traffic. Dutch designer Gijs Schalkx grabbed the opportunity and now drives his car on the waste he collects.

Can We Make Bicycles Sustainable Again?

Cycling is the most sustainable form of transportation, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly damaging to the environment. The energy and material used for its production go up while its life expectancy decreases.

When Lethal Weapons Grew on Trees

While manufacturing modern firearms and bullets depends on a global supply chain and fossil fuels, bows and arrows can be made anywhere out of anything, using only human power and simple hand tools.

Fascine Mattresses: Basketry Gone Wild

Around the 17th century, the Dutch started reinforcing their dykes and harbours with sturdy mats the size of football pitches – hand-woven from thousands of twigs grown on nearby coppice plantations. These “fascine mattresses” were weighted with rocks and sunk into canals, estuaries, and rivers.

How to Make Biomass Energy Sustainable Again

From the Neolithic to the beginning of the twentieth century, coppiced woodlands, pollarded trees, and hedgerows provided people with a sustainable supply of energy, materials, and food.

How to Make Wind Power Sustainable Again

If we build them out of wood, large wind turbines could become a textbook example of the circular economy.

Reinventing the Small Wind Turbine

A wooden rotor and tower greatly increase the net energy output over the lifetime of a small wind turbine.

How Circular is the Circular Economy?

As long as we keep accumulating raw materials, the closing of the material life cycle remains an illusion, even for materials that are, in principle, recyclable.

Burning the Bones of the Earth: Lime Kilns

Lime burning is a now-forgotten industry that sustained many agrarian communities before energy became cheap.

Insulation: First the Body, Then the Home

Modern thermal underclothing offers the possibility to turn the thermostat much lower without sacrificing comfort or sex appeal.

Rings of Fire: Hoffmann Kilns

Depending on the size of the kiln, it took between one and six weeks for the fire to complete a full circle.

How much energy does it take (on average) to produce 1 kilogram of the following materials?

Wood, steel, aluminium, iron, glass, paper, plastics, copper, silicon, nickel, titanium, electronic grade silicon.