Son of Five Rivers Blog

For the advancement of Entrepreneurship, Sustainability & the Ecology of Everyday Life

Saving The Bee’s Project

Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”.

“This newly created hive of bees was overwhelmed by a wasp attack … every single bee was killed … all the eggs and larvae were eaten … all the honey was stolen by the wasps … I found a large pile of dead bees on the mesh floor … no living bees in the hive at all … hundreds of bee-wings scattered … I could see legs, heads, thoraxes by the hundreds … I didn’t realize that wasps physically dismember bees, biting off wings, legs and heads … possibly they do this to carry away the bees’ abdomens, which they may use to feed their own larvae … I made six new wasp traps today and placed them around the hives … there were dozens of wasps inside the traps within 15 minutes … so the local wasp population evidently is really high this year …”

The predatory nature of wasps actually helps balance things in certain ecological systems.  Their action against harmful caterpillars, for example, can be useful in the Sierra foothills in California.

But more than half of fruit and vegetable crops may be pollinated by honey bees. They are honored by many entomologists, in fact, as among the most beneficial of insect species – and that’s before they produce 200 million pounds of honey annually.

Wasps are not the only threat to bees. The so called Colony collapse disorder (CCD), is a relatively new phenomenon, which causes whole colonies of bees to disappear. CCD is believed to pose a serious threat to pollination in the future and stresses why we have to protect bees.

When wasps raid beehives, it never goes well for the bees. They’re no match for the larger, more powerful wasps. A single attack normally takes out an entire hive, as is described in the August 2008 account excerpted above, from California.

The significance of the design name “6.40mm,” then becomes quickly evident. The girth of the average bee is only 6.40 millimeters, a third of what a wasp’s may be. And by creating cell-shaped holes big enough for bees to enter a modern hive, but too small for wasps to follow them in, a group of designers from Seoul and Hong Kong believe they are able to make an effective intervention in this cycle of destruction.

“The new beehive we designed is totally similar to others at first glance,” the team writes in its documentation.” But in addition to the smaller hole, the new hive is made of six wooden boards. The top cover contains a steel piece to hold the body of the box together. The bottom has two legs for air flow. An instruction manual is engraved on the interior. And the “queen excluder” – which keeps the queen bee safely in the “brood chamber” – is positioned under the storage area for honey.

“Through a little change of thinking,” the team writes, “we can change big.”

no bee’s no pollen,
no pollen no plants,
no plants no animals,
no animals no food.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Creativity, Great Ideas, Life, Packaging, Products, Sustainability | , , , , | 1 Comment

Sheltering the Urban Homeless

Here’s an Idea, an inflatable igloo-looking shelter, the ParaSITE is meant to attach to the exhaust points of urban buildings’ heating and cooling systems – in a sense, making a parasitic relationship to the air needed to inflate the shelter.

Though the creation of permanent housing must always be of first priority Parasite propose a possible temporary solution. The paraSITE units in their idle state exist as small, collapsible packages with handles for transport by hand or on one’s back. In employing this device, the user must locate the outtake ducts of a building’s HVAC system. The intake tube of the collapsed structure is then attached to the vent. The warm air leaving the building then inflates and heats the double membrane structure.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Community Economic Development (CED), Creativity, Earth, Family, Government, Great Ideas, Not for Profit, Packaging, Products, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development | , , | Leave a comment

Transforming the Water Barrel

The practical and durable design of the Hippo Water Roller enables more water to be transported more efficiently than traditional methods.  The Hippo, with it’s large drum capacity of 90 litres / 24 gallons, frees women and children from having to spend a large portion of every day dedicated to collecting water for their households

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Community Economic Development (CED), Creativity, Great Ideas, Life, Not for Profit, Philanthropy, Photography, Products, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development, Water | , | Leave a comment

Chulha (Traditional Stove in India)

Research cited by the World Health Organization indicates that nearly half the world continues today to cook with solid fuels including dung, wood, agricultural residues and coal. Such “bio-mass” fuels are blamed for diseases that result in deaths numbered in more than one million per year.

The Chulha is a stove designed to limit the dangerous health conditions caused by traditions of indoor cooking in many rural areas of the developing world.


The way the design teams behind the Chulha stove design like to put it, they’re “helping 400 million people give up smoking.”

What at INDEX: is called Design to Improve Life is termed, at Philips Design, “Philanthropy by Design.” And Philips’ teams in India and the Netherlands have worked together to create this smokeless response to a vast health problem.

Initially intended for rural and semi-urban parts of India, the design is intended to take the dangers of indoor cooking with bio-mass fuels out of an equation that health officials say affects the health of millions of people each year.

Bio-mass fuels include wood, dung and other substances which, when burned give off an array of particles dangerous to human respiratory systems. Adequately ventilated in an outdoor setting, there usually is no problem with such cooking. But by one estimate, as many as half the people of the world may still be cooking indoors with bio-mass fuels. And trapped inside, the smoke involved can become a lethal mix of indoor pollutants.

As the Philips design teams have noted, once they began to study the problem, the range of application was a huge issue. “The stove would have to accept different bio-mass fuels,” the teams wrote, “be widely available in different seasons and locations, adapt to people’s needs when cooking chapatti (bread), steaming rice, boiling water, and be able to accept different non-standard cooking vessels.”

The improved stove directs the smoke out of the house through a chimney. Philips went on to make its intellectual property on the design available free of charge – even working to develop molds that would allow NGOs (non-governmental organizations as identified by the UN) to make the stoves for people who need them the most.

One of the NGOs Philips has identified as a partner in the development of the Chulha is the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute of India.



August 26, 2009 Posted by | Community Economic Development (CED), Creativity, Education, Family, Government, Great Ideas, Inspiration, Life, Not for Profit, Packaging, Philanthropy, Products, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development | , , , | Leave a comment

Putting Needles in Cans Safely

Some people may not see the significance of this invention, but I’ve s seen this problem first hand with my work in the Downtown East Side the poorest and most drug riddled neighbourhood in Canada.   This yellow cap was designed by Hân Pham to address the “Needle-stick” injuries with used syringes.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Creativity, Government, Great Ideas, Life, Not for Profit, Packaging, Products, Services | , , , | Leave a comment

Disposable Biodgradable Mug for 3rd World

This may not make sense to you because of where you live and how you were raised, but imagine the hygiene and environmental factor for people in third world countries.  Plus this would be good for camping and your home emergency/ earthquake kit.

Disposable Mug1

Disposable Mug

Paul Sandip’s design, nominated for INDEX:Award 2009, is a collapsible one-use mug meant for washing after using public lavatories on India’s trains. It is inexpensive, holds more than a liter of water and disintegrates less than an hour after use, answering price, hygiene and waste-disposal challenges.

“When I was a student,” Paul Sandip recalls, “I had to travel by trains. And because of our large population here in India, you normally don’t get reserved-ticket service. In fact, you normally have to travel sitting in the aisles.

“So lots of travelers, like me, had observed this pressing need of people who use the public toilets in these trains. We Indians prefer to use water to  wash ourselves, instead of using toilet paper. But there was no product that was catering to this need. So people would carry maybe empty water bottles or teacups, something like that.”

Water, Sandip clarifies, is supplied on the trains, with taps in each public lavatory. But without containers, it’s useless to travelers.

“I investigated more into the matter,” Sandip says, “and I found that yes, indeed, the trains did have toilet mugs. But most of them were stolen. So even though the railway had given toilet mugs, they were not there because of this vandalism.”

“So I started thinking, why not have a product a person could buy inexpensively on a platform? Something nice and portable. It needed to be foldable because you’re traveling and you don’t have much space. It also had to be something you could throw away. You wouldn’t want to use it again because it would be very dirty. So you wanted something you would throw off the train.”

“But then, you had to think, when you say you’re going to throw it off — a very huge concern arises because you have to ask if this product is going to harm the environment or not. A lot of people would want to use this, and it might create a lot of nuisance.”

“That’s when I started exploring materials and came across a particular type of paper which had both the strength to withstand 1.2 liters of water, but which could also be glued with organic glue, and thirdly, that it would disintegrate after some point in time. I needed to connect these three different ideas of hygiene, portability and eco-friendliness.

“The place I come from is an ancient part of India,” the Kolkata region of portable in West Bengal, known to some by its anglicized name, Calcutta. “And there, we have a type of paper for vendors to use in selling food. After you use it, you can just throw it away. And those packages are made from recycled newspapers.”

Using this paper as his starting point, Sandip has test-marketed his Disposable Mug with the state railway’s cooperation on one of its longest lines. What the railway authority has asked is that private vendors make Sandip’s mugs available on the train platforms. Sandip’s effort now is to find sponsors who will pay for the paper and glue in exchange for advertisements printed on the mugs. To move to this next phase, Sandip has a business partner, a brother of his wife.

“My brother-in-law has been thinking on how this can be manufactured,” Sandip says. “Because this product is needed all over the country — and that means logistics could be a huge problem. So the idea is to have it manufactured by the people who live in slums by the train lines.  They live in unemployment and poverty, and this would give them something to sell. It creates the product all over the country. We just need the funding for purchasing the raw materials.”

Sandip and his brother-in-law, then, are working on finding advertiser-underwriters of the product, to get the paper and glue into the hands of the slum dwellers who will make and sell it.

“And you know,” Sandip says, “I normally deal with housewares and utensils as a designer. I have a small range of products, things housewives use at home. But for me, it’s not enough just to think about styling in design.  You also want to put heart into it. That’s the real difference.”
Designed by: Sandip Paul, Noida, India.

Additional credits: Bhushan Bawankule; Indian Railway Authority.

Written by Porter Anderson

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Creativity, Earth, Education, Life, Packaging, Products, Sustainability | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lights without Light Pollution

I consider my self an amateur astronomer,  so I was pleseantly surprised when I read this in a newsletter from my local electricty supplier, BC Hydro.  (and Yes I’m susbscribed to the online newsletters of my Gas & Electricty suppliers, doesn’t it just make sense?)  Enjoy the article & some pictures I found:

Light Polution

Light Polution STreet Lights

Astronomers big on Power Smart’s battle against light pollution

Rob Klovance

Detail of a photo of the Pelican Nebula taken by John McDonald through a telescope at Astronomy Hill near Victoria in 2007. (W.J. McDonald photo)

It took a trip to Saltspring Island for amateur astronomer John McDonald’s grandkids from Vancouver to see the milky way for the first time. But for McDonald, it’s the story of a group of visiting Tokyo schoolkids that hammers home the allure of the elusive dark sky.

“These kids were staying at a fairly dark place up island,” says McDonald, a retiree who lives in Victoria. “Someone took them out at night to show them the milky way… and they couldn’t’ get them to go back in.

“These kids had never seen a star except the sun.”

McDonald and other B.C. star-gazers couldn’t be happier to hear that BC Hydro Power Smart has launched a campaign to fight light pollution that includes rebates on flat lens streetlight products. To them, the need is significant and the timing is perfect – the United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy, an initiative that coincides with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope.

It’s not just about dark skies

And if you’re thinking that an astronomer’s battle against light pollution is just a tad self-serving, think again. Before we start talking about the stars, McDonald has already dealt with a laundry list of light pollution costs – wasted energy, wasted money, dangerous glare for drivers and detrimental effects on wildlife, including birds and fish.

“I think most of us are very keenly aware of the fact we’re using up energy, and that there’s a cost to it,” says McDonald, fresh off a trip to Costa Rica in which he shot a mind-blowing time-lapse video of the sky throughout the night. “And the amount of energy that is wasted in lighting up the bottoms of clouds and sending light off into space to do nothing is a considerable expense. It’s billions of dollars in North America.”

Our ‘addiction’  to light

Most of us think that the brighter the outdoor lighting, the better. McDonald thinks that attitude is a byproduct of growing up in an age here in B.C. where “hydro power has been basically a free service”. He speaks of us being addicted to light while largely ignoring the costs of that addiction.

In 1996, at the request of the US Congress, the National Institute of Justice conducted a landmark assessment of crime and violence in the United States. The study found little research to support the idea of “brighter-is-safer”, and even suggested that in some circumstances poorly designed illumination might actually increase personal vulnerability.

“There’s nothing worse than having somebody with motion security lighting,” says another astronomer, Paul Greenhalgh of Abbotsford. “To me it’s not security at all, it’s illumination. The day that a streetlight walks into court and testifies that this guy did what he did – that he stole that car – is the day I’ll eat my telescope.”

A billion bucks in wasted energy

Inefficient and excessive night lighting causes significant loss of energy globally. In North America, the energy wasted in illuminating the sky is estimated at a billion dollars. Good, clean outdoor lighting improves visibility, safety, and a sense of security, while minimizing energy use, operating costs, and ugly, dazzling glare.

There are three types of light pollution:

  • Light trespass, which occurs when light crosses property lines. Poor outdoor lighting shines onto neighbours’ properties and into bedroom windows, reducing privacy, hindering sleep, and giving the area an unattractive look.
  • Glare, which comes from an overly bright source of light compared to background lighting levels. Glare  is light that beams directly from a lamp into your eye. It serves no purpose and hampers the vision of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. If you can see the bright lamp from a distance, it’s a bad light. With a good light, you see lit ground instead of the dazzling lamp.
  • Sky glow, which spills upward from urbanized areas and blocks the view of the stars

If we were to think of lamps as taps and leaking light rays as drops of water, we would never tolerate it. But, we seldom think about the impact of light pollution.

Reducing light pollution has a variety of benefits, including energy savings and helping eliminate light exposure that disrupts sleep cycles, causes fatigue and strains the immune system.

What we can do to helpIllustration shows full cutoff streetlamp

Greenhalgh’s Fraser Valley Astronomers Society has successfully lobbied the City of Abbotsford to apply a new policy to streetlighting. All new streetlamps in the city will be fitted with full cutoff lighting, which all but eliminates light not central to the task of lighting the street. And all existing lamps will be retrofitted with full cutoffs as part of their ongoing maintainence cycle.

Power Smart is out to remind people that we all have the power to help reduce light pollution and save energy and money, both with the lighting choices we make at home and the choices we make at our businesses.

Here’s a short list of things we can do:

  • Assess your requirements. Ask yourself if the lighting is really needed. If so, determine what area has to be lit, how much illumination is needed, and when is the lighting required.
  • Adopt “part-night lighting” by turning off non-essential lights after midnight. You save energy and money.
  • Install timers or motion sensors to turn your security lighting on only when needed. You save energy and money.
  • Adjust your security and outdoor lights so that they do not trespass into your neighbours’ house. Casting light onto adjacent areas is a waste of energy
  • Direct light where it is needed. Use lights that shield the lamp and direct the light down rather than out and away.
  • Avoid glare. A luminaire that emits a concentrated beam of light offers better visibility than one that shines light in all directions. In certain cases, glare can compromise safety.
  • Choose the most efficient lamps. Certain types of lamps consume less energy than others with the same light output. Choose lamps with a high lamp efficacy such as CFLs.
  • Choose the right luminaire. Light directed towards the sky does not improve night vision.
  • Choose luminaires that have a flat lens and a shield that completely shades the upper surface of the lamp or are classified as cut off and full cutoff by IESNA (Illumination Engineering Society of North America). The lamps sit back further in these luminaires causing the light to be cast down rather than out to the side. Therefore light cannot escape above 90 degrees horizontal plane. You can even install the lights under balconies and eaves.

How BC Hydro is fighting light pollution

BC Hydro is doing its part to reduce light pollution and help its customers save energy and money. Some of BC Hydro’s initiatives that help customers reduce light pollution and save energy include:

  • In-store instant discounts on ENERGY STAR light fixtures and ENERGY STAR Specialty CFL lamps. These lamps use up to 75% less energy than regular incandescent lamps.
    Mail in rebates for the purchase of ENERGY STAR CFL lamps.
  • Funding for studies to determine how municipalities can use adaptive street lighting to reduce street lighting levels without impacting safety. This will help municipalities dim their street lights by up to 50% during low traffic periods.
  • Incentives for business customers to install lighting controls such as timers and occupancy sensors to turn of lights when lighting is not required.
  • Incentives for municipalities and businesses to install ornamental streetlights with high efficiency lamps with flat lenses. The fully-shielded flat-lens lamps do an equally good job of illuminating the road by directing the light to where it is needed without sending light up into the sky or out into your eyes. The ground and roadway will be well illuminated. And, because no light is wasted, a lower wattage lamp can be used to illuminate the desired area.
  • Technical and financial assistance to customers who plan to reduce their lighting energy consumption by re-designing their lighting and de-lamping to reduce over illumination.
  • Lighting design tools and financial incentives for developers and builders of new buildings.
  • Funding for energy managers who target energy efficiency measures at customers’ facilities.
  • Training and development opportunities on energy conservation for businesses and their employees.

Source: BC Hydro

Other Cool Links:

Our Vanishing Night (National Geographic article)

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Vancouver)

International Astronomy Day, HR MacMillan Space Centre, Vancouver

The Sky Tonight (Diagram of constellations in current evening sky, Vancouver)

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Art, Business, Business Development, Clean Energy, Community Economic Development (CED), Construction, Creativity, Earth, Education, Family, Geothermal, Government, Great Ideas, Green Roofs, Human Resources, Inspiration, LEED, Life, Philanthropy, Products, Solar, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BlackBerry Balckout (7pm to 7am)

If you dont’ have a PDA with Data Package (Phone with real time email access) you may not understand the significance of this… but for the rest of us Crack-Berry users this might be a good thing!

I first heard of this in Parliament Hill, where a major federal department of the Canadian government is trying to ban the use of the handheld devices in meetings, after work hours, and on weekend and holidays to help bureaucrats “balance” their work and family lives.

This wouldn’t be a bad ideas for most businesses and NGO’s to help with the work life balance issues that seem to be getting out of hand these days.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Education, Great Ideas, Human Resources, Life, Not for Profit, PDA's | , , | Leave a comment

Text Messaging while Driving

So recently I watched a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on Text Messaging while driving.

I think naturally any organization that has a company vehicle should put this into a written policy that clearly states employees should never text or email while driving.

It seems like common sense but I heard the statistic that 45’000 people die from this a year?  This just seems completely absurd to me.

In the United States they have already banned texting while driving in many states.  Canada on the other hand is very far behind and we don’t have a single Province or Territory passing any sort of legislation on this matter.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Business, Education, Electric Cars, Human Resources, Life, PDA's, Videos | , , , | 1 Comment