Waste Not, Want Not: Ideas to Limit Food Waste

foodApproximately one third of all food produced (1.3 billion tons for those keeping count) gets lost or wasted. This is a tremendous problem — and enormous opportunity for novel ideas to limit food waste. Here are several:

1) Software to Limit Food Waste

LeanPath provides software tools and systems to allow food workers to document and address food waste. http://www.leanpath.com/

2) Social Supermarkets

“Members save up to 70 percent on food that grocers have rejected due to mislabeling, damaged packaging, or nearing expiration dates”. SSIR http://bit.ly/1qVaCAz

3) Turn Extra Produce into Storable Form

Canadian non-profit sells bicycle-powered food processor to villages to process and store extra produce, creating jobs and better nutrition. http://www.malnutrition.org/vg_intro.htm

4) Fine Diners for Wasting Food

Some “all you can eat” buffets in China discourage taking more than you can eat: they fine diners for wasted food, based on weight of discards.

5) Feed 5000 With Food Waste

The British “Feeding the 5000” campaign gathers salvageable food waste – then produces a feast for 5000. http://feedbackglobal.org/campaigns/feeding-the-5000/

For a careful review of the issue, see Prospect Magazine. Another good overview is found at the Stanford Social Innovation Review. To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Five Innovative Ideas for Managers

Managers do a lot of learning on the job. Why not supplement that process with good ideas from other managers? Here are five management ideas from Good Ideas which seem sensible and applicable:

1) Balancing Innovation and Execution

How does an organization balance the need to innovate with the need to execute on current projects? Eric Schmidt at Google imposes the 70 / 20 / 10 rule for percentage of company resources spent on core business / new businesses / speculative efforts. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/70/20/10_Model

2) “Screw Up As Fast As Possible

In a Wired cover story, management at Pixar describes how they tolerate (expect) mistakes, but have systems in place to correct them quickly. Wired http://bit.ly/baP5VP

3) Abolish Budgeting

Believe it or not, UBS decided to stop judging employees against pre-determined budgets, and start judging them against previous results and their peers, making all figures public. Growth accelerated. Wired Magazine http://bit.ly/c1YS1J

4) Use “Walking Meetings” for Creativity & Perspective

Walk around the block with colleagues, rather than sitting in the office, for planning or problem solving discussions.

5) Don’t be Obsessed with Profits

Some internet companies “do what’s cool” as the main component of their business plan. NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/business/yourmoney/02frenzy.html

Feel free to vote or comment on these ideas, as well as adding your own, on Good Ideas!

Combatting the “Most Lethal Animal in the World”

mosFirst, a quiz: What is the most lethal animal in the world?

If the measure is “how many humans are killed”, then the answer isn’t even close: it’s the mosquito. (Here is a great graphic posted by Bill Gates on this topic.)

So what measures are most effective to combat mosquitos? Here are several good ideas:

1) Bed Nets For All

Insecticide-treated bed nets are twice as effective as normal bed nets, and increase malaria protection by 70%. http://bit.ly/1uzIOm0

2) Immunize Mosquitoes

Researchers develop vaccine to prevent mosquitoes from getting malaria from humans. | http://bit.ly/1mWEbQC

3) Low tech mosquito repellent: a fan

A small fan discourages mosquitos and dissipates the human smells which attract them. NY Timeshttp://nyti.ms/13dVqAt

4) Block Mosquitoes with Laser Nets

A Columbia University astrophysicist, using a Gates Foundation grant, has developed a prototype system which blocks mosquitoes using light barriers. http://www.nytimes.com/projects/magazine/ideas/2009/#w

5) Use Smartphones to Track Mosquitoes

Public officials in Lahore use photos and GPS information from smartphones to better target anti-mosquito programs. Dengue Fever has dropped significantly. http://econ.st/178vcmf

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Five Crazy (and Interesting) Transportation Ideas

Hyperloop2Current transportation systems cause pollution, are often slow, and in many cases are very dangerous. As a planet we can clearly do better.

Here are five crazy (aka interesting) transportation ideas that might be implemented in the future?:

1) Straddling Bus Offers Cheap Public Transport

Officials in China want to build two story tall “straddling busses” that allow cars to pass under. http://bit.ly/cwo8RY

2) Hyperloop: Faster and Cheaper than High Speed Rail

Elon Musk proposes a vacuum tube-based transportation system that is fast, cheap, and environmentally friendly. http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/hyperloop

3) Trains That Don’t Need to Stop

Chinese transportation officials have designed a train + pod system that eliminates the need for trains to stop at stations. NY Times best idea 2010. http://nyti.ms/ha5sBa

4) Use “Road Trains” to Save Gas

Wirelessly linking automobiles into “road trains” can save 20% of fuel. http://bit.ly/7oP5ED

5) Personal Monorail

Shweeb offers a human powered personal monorail transport solution. A Google 10^100 idea winner. http://bit.ly/YSTYgB

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Solving Important Problems Through Smartphones

Smartphones and applicationsAbout a billion new smartphones will be sold in 2014, the majority in developing countries. This expanding network offers profound opportunities to solve global problems in entirely new ways.

Here are a few examples of innovative uses of smartphones — which admittedly just scratch the surface of what is possible:

1) Use Smartphones to Track Mosquitoes

Public officials in Lahore use photos and GPS information from smartphones to better target anti-mosquito programs. Dengue Fever has dropped significantly. http://econ.st/178vcmf

2) Track, Report Noise Pollution via Mobile Phone

NoiseTube and NoiseMap are two projects that allow crowdsourced collection and reporting of noise pollution data. On MobileActive.org http://bit.ly/cMx5RC

3) Inexpensive Eye Exams via Smartphone

MIT researchers have developed a small device that when combined with a smartphone can offer eye exams in developing countries. Fast Company http://bit.ly/9bWBXJ

4) Map Transit Routes Using Cell Phones

Students at the University of Nairoibi and MIT have mapped Nairobi’s informal transit network through studying cell phone data. Atlantic http://bit.ly/1k593ev

5) Data-driven Biodiversity

Crowdsourcing, a smartphone app, satellite images and data analysis combine to tell farmers which fields to flood and when to help migratory birds. NY Times http://nyti.ms/1kYcIbt

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.


Five Good Ideas for Saving Gas

milesMany families spend thousands of dollars per year on fuel for their cars. Here are five good ideas for saving money — and helping the environment while you are at it:

Inflate Your Tires

Most automobile tires are 80% inflated or less, wasting over 100 gallons of gas per year per car. It’s bad for the pocketbook, it’s bad for safety, and it’s bad for the environment. http://abt.cm/1a28SuZ

Save Gas By Driving Less Aggressively

Edmunds.com tests show that driving less aggressively is the best way to save fuel – better than driving slower, inflating tires, reducing idling, and other strategies. http://bit.ly/8Ygyoo

Roll Down Your Window Instead of AC

Rolling down your window to cool the car on a hot day uses less energy than the AC – except when driving on the highway (where wind resistance matters more). Slate http://bit.ly/d65p04

Use “Road Trains” to Save Gas

Wirelessly linking automobiles into “road trains” can save 20% of fuel. http://bit.ly/7oP5ED

Buy a Tesla Instead of a Minivan

Total cost of ownership over eight years for a Honda Odyssey is higher than for a Tesla Model S. ExtremeTech http://bit.ly/1t5FEDS

Feel free to vote or comment on any of these ideas on Good Ideas (you can click on the idea titles above to go straight to the ideas).

Novel Uses of Color

colorsWe often think of problems being addressed through creative strategies or innovative design. But what about the novel use of color?

Here are five good ideas that apply the use of color in inventive ways:

1) Measure Pulse by Webcam

Scientists at MIT are able to measure someone’s pulse by watch for minor variations in their facial color by webcam. The presages many other types of remote medical monitoring. NY Times best idea 2010 http://nyti.ms/ijrCJF 

2) Food Wrapping Which Detects Pathogens

Canadian meat wrapping materials turn color in presence of certain pathogens. A NYTimes “best idea 2007” winner. http://bit.ly/4TLzlM

3) Make Roads White

Black roads can increase the temperature in cities by tens of degrees – requiring more air conditioning. http://bit.ly/17bf1mi

4) Chameleon Camo

ColorPhase Camouflage has ink which changes color in different seasons, improving effectiveness. Popular Science Innovation 2013 http://bit.ly/1iqSrNJ

5) Change Exit Signs to Green from Red

American Exit signs are red and say “exit”. Signs in most other parts of the world are green and show a man running. The international signs don’t require English, are universally recognized, and are safer during an emergency. Slate http://bit.ly/axO6Ei

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Ranking Good Ideas at the United Nations

Copenhagen Consensus CenterThe United Nations (UN) in 2000 established eight Millennium Development Goals to help guide and focus global efforts to reduce poverty through 2015. With the final date approaching, the UN is now in the process of establishing a set of Sustainable Development Goals to guide global development efforts through 2030.

The Open Working Group at the UN has received hundreds of suggested priorities to include within the Sustainable Development Goals. How should the Open Working Group decide which to prioritize?

Analysis and suggestions are being offered by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, an international organization that evaluates the effectiveness of global development ideas. The Center has issued a preliminary benefit-cost analysis, ranking 212 potential targets as “phenomenal”, “good”, “fair”, “poor”, or “uncertain”.

Which ideas come out on top? You can read the full report (PDF) here.

Five Important Ideas for Helping the Environment

One active category to date on Good Ideas has been the environment section. There are innovative and important ideas there that everyone concerned about the environment should be familiar with. Here are five that strike me as both surprising and consequential:

Don’t Reduce Traffic Jams

Traffic jams are actually good for the environment, mostly because they encourage short commutes and mass transit. Wall Street Journal http://bit.ly/cDS0lE

For Fuel Efficiency, Drop “MPG” For “Gallons Per 10000 Miles”

It’s true: “MPG” ratings don’t say much about environment impact (because big cars use a lot more gas, so a small change has big impact). We really should change how mileage is reported. NYTimes “best of 2008” idea. http://bit.ly/7Mz1wD

To Combat Global Warming, Forget About CO2, Worry About Methane

What?! Don’t worry about CO2? The rationale for this important idea is that methane has 75% of the impact of CO2 on global warming, but has short lifespan and is easier to contain. WSJ: http://ow.ly/QJuy

Don’t Worry About Car Pollution, Worry About Ship Pollution

The fact that a small number of ships produce as much sulphur pollution as all of the cars in the world is shocking (and a bit troubling). Ships burn dirty fuel. Shouldn’t this change? Daily Mail http://bit.ly/cSoq7I

To Combat Global Warming, Focus on Long-Term Interventions

Bill Gates makes a very powerful argument: short-term interventions to help the environment (the current target is 30% reduction of emissions by 2025) are possible, but not very meaningful. We need 80% reductions by 2050, which requires a completely different approach. http://bit.ly/85pVOp

Feel free to vote or comment on any of these ideas on Good Ideas (you can click on the idea titles above to go straight to the ideas).

Light, Health, Cleanliness: The Remarkable Two Liter Bottle

pepsiMillions of two liter bottles are used in developing countries each year. Once the soft drink is consumed, there are still plenty of innovative uses for the sturdy container. Here are a few good ideas:

1) Light

A water-filled 2-liter bottle can replace a 50 watt light bulb. Used across Asia and South America. Awesome! http://bit.ly/bAPUpt

2) Water purification

A billion people drink highly polluted water. Treating water by putting it in 2 liter cola bottles and setting it in the sun on a black surface for 5 hours kills 99% of pathogens. One of the world’s truly great ideas. See http://www.sodis.ch

3) Water filtering

Biome Solutions describes how to make a functioning water filter out of a two liter bottle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXfVVAJJ1II

4) Hand-washing

A device fashioned from a two-liter bottle provides hand-washing for developing countries. A New York Times “best of 2008” selection. http://bit.ly/5EYH7w

5) Transportation

The rRaft builds functioning boats from ~1000 recycled two liter bottles. http://rraft.blogspot.com/

Wow – and certainly just a subset of the possibilities!