Andy Swindler

December 30, 2008

Hamster-Powered Paper Shredder

For those looking to save the environment, cut down on hamster cage maintenance, and securely destroy those compromising documents you’ve got laying around, check out this paper shredder running on hamster power. It takes about 45 minutes of continuous wheel-running to shred one piece of paper, but it’s certainly innovative and might even be produced on a wide scale. Who is going to bother taping together all your documents after your hamster has had his way with them?

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Andy Swindler

November 28, 2008

Green Future for the Automotive Industry

Just read a recent Wired article about Shai Agassi’s start-up devoted to eliminating oil consumption by automobiles across the world. It’s a bit long, but worth a read if you’re feeling as skeptical as I am about the baby-step attitude toward the future of efficient automobiles. Agassi’s new company, Better Place, is the result of thinking VERY big, having the charisma to sell his vision, and generating $200 million in start-up capital to get going, making it the fifth largest start-up ever.

The basic concept is to create an electric car recharging infrastructure that gets power from renewable sources. New electric cars will use special charging stations and battery exchange stations to make it convenient for consumers. Electricity will be priced more like cell phones, with options for unlimited miles, a maximum number of miles each month, or pay as you go. Better Place is making deals with governments and states (Israel, Denmark, and Australia for starters, Hawaii not far behind), automobile and battery manufacturers, dealers, venture capitalists — everyone needed to make this fundamental fueling shift possible.

Agassi’s goal is not to make a company, but rather end oil dependence globally. It’s a lofty goal, to be sure, but this is the most encouraging and empowering plan I’ve read about, and it seems so logical that it has everyone he talks to asking, “Why doesn’t this already exist?” Better Place is equated to being more like AT&T than Nokia, and they’ll make their profit on selling the power. All they need is the infrastructure, and I don’t think it will take the world long to grab hold of this. China is a possible early market, as is San Francisco. If all goes well, the company will change standards for car production and energy consumption worldwide.

His goals of changing the world in as few as 20 years are a bit far-flung, but why not shoot for the moon? In terms of lifestyle changes, I think people will wonder why they can’t just charge their cars in the garage overnight, and it’s a legitimate logistical question. I’m all for his network of green power, but having alternative sources for the energy would make it more acceptable in more places. All the world markets won’t be conquered with one solution, so I’m eager to see how his test runs go.

Andy Swindler

November 1, 2008

Halloween Critical Mass

The newest member of the Astek team, Andrew Crowe, and I set out after work to join the Halloween Critical Mass. It was loads of fun, and I think we succeeded in ticking off some drivers in the process as well. Thanks Andrew for the great photo.

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Andy Swindler

June 24, 2008

Austin Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit

Not sure how quickly it will catch on, but this is an interesting take on the future of personal transit in a rapidly growing city like Austin, TX.

My cousin in Austin, Rose Hansen Smith, co-produced a documentary film called The Unforeseen, executive produced by Robert Redford and Terrence Malick. I saw it at Sundance in 2007. It deftly uses Austin as a lens to frame the environmental impact of urban and suburban growth in metropolitan areas of the country, but does not get into specific ways to fix it.

Andy Swindler

May 15, 2008

Celebrate the Mangy Lawn

I just bought a spanky new lawn mower for my modest Chicago lawn. Human power seems the reasonable way to go for a small lawn in a big city.

Of course even the state-of-the-art of these things leaves a few trailing blades of grass. Instead of calling it mange, let’s celebrate lawns that clearly put the environment above the perfect cut.

Oh who am I kidding?

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Andy Swindler

May 12, 2008

10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media

Check out this list of ways you can use the Web and social media to help the planet and each other.