Electrically Powered Bicycle Trailer & Hand Cart (DIY)

electric powered bike trailer

The German-made Carla Cargo is a three-wheeled cycle trailer with an electric assist motor. It can be pulled by any type of bicycle (including a cargo cycle or an electric bike), and it allows you to carry heavy (up to 150 kg) and bulky cargo (a loading platform of 60 x 160 cm). Uncoupled from the bicycle, the Carla Cargo works as a hand cart for large or heavy loads. The vehicle weighs 40 kg including the battery, and has a range of 40 to 60 km.

carla cargo bike trailerThe electric motor is built into the front wheel and can produce 250 watts as a trailer (up to 23 km/h), and 500 watts as a handtruck (up to 6 km/h). The lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 11 or 15 Ah. The vehicle has two disk brakes and a parking brake, which are controlled via the handle or the bicycle handlebar.

The Carlo Cargo sells for about 4,000 euro. The construction manual is freely accessible online, but only in German for now. The trailer/handcart is present at the International Cargo Bike Festival, April 16-17, in Nijmegem, the Netherlands.

Previously: 8-wheeler cargo cycle.

Water Johads: A Low-Tech Alternative to Mega-Dams in India

water johad india

When the British colonized India, they imposed their own system of water management, which included the building of large-scale dams, sewers, and irrigation channels. This high-tech approach continues today, as the World Bank is urging India to build enormous dam projects to fight drought and depleted aquifers. The Indian government has followed its advice. Its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, called dams the “Temples of modern India”. Since then, India has built over 5,000 dams and large reservoirs. [1]

However, before the British arrived, people on the subcontinent used traditional low-cost, low-tech engineering to collect rainwater for thousands of years. This involved the placement of thousands of small structures throughout rural areas which, in one way or another, catch excess rainwater from the monsoon months and allow it to slowly percolate into the groundwater during the dry season. To maintain and manage these structures, community-based management schemes were necessary. However, these were actively discouraged during British rule and following independence. As a result, in the 20th century many of these small reservoirs fell into disrepair.

[Read more…]

A World Made of Rotor Blades

public seating rotor blades close

Almost a quarter of a million windmills worldwide will need to be replaced by 2030. The rotor blades are made of valuable composite materials that are difficult to recover at the end of their energy generating life. New generation rotor blades made of glass or carbon fibre composite material have average lifespans of between 10 and 25 years. Recycling of glass fibre composite is possible though complex. Recycling of the more highly valued carbon fibre composite is currently impossible. In many EU countries landfill of carbon composites is now prohibited. Thus, many rotor blades at the end of their wind turbine life are currently shredded and incinerated. At current growth rates, by 2034, there will be about 225,000 tonnes of rotor blade composite material produced annually, worldwide.

The Dutch firm Superuse Studios has found a solution to the growing mountains of waste generated by the wind industry: making use of end-of-life rotor blades in design and architecture. The realised projects demonstrate the technical applications and potential for blade made designs and architecture. In their second life as design and architectural elements, rotor blades could be used for a further 50-100 years, or more. Blade made designs are durable, iconic, compete economically, and reduce the ecological footprint of projects in which they are used. [Read more…]

A Scooter for Everyone

electric scooter johanson3

The Johanson3 is a stable three-wheeler, with the driver leaning back rather than sitting (though sitting is an option). Feet rest on a plate, and pressing down on that plate creates a lean on the front wheel, turning the vehicle while the rear wheels remain solidly on the ground.

That makes for easy on-and off, especially for those who – owing to age, injury, or fashion choice (“skirts, saris, djellabas, and kimonos” are accommodated, according to Johanson3) – cannot throw a leg over a bicycle seat. Various models accommodate single riders or as many as three adults plus two kids, and can haul up to 660lbs of flesh and cargo. Read more: The J3, a trike that hauls freight, spares frocks.

The Johanson3 is available for pre-order and costs $3,150 – $3,900.

Animals as the Answer to Recycling Food waste

Mountains of food scraps end up in landfills every day. While northern countries glorify attempts to facilitate this trash-to-treasure process using state-of-the-art technologies, Bobbili, a town in Northeast India, adopts a tech-free solution – a park using animals for solid waste management.

animals recycling food waste

Livestock at waste management park in Bobbili, India

[Read more…]

Furoshiki: Zero-Waste Shopping in Japan

In a time when cloth-making was one of the most advanced technologies, a piece of square cloth was all that a man needed to carry goods around. Japanese call it ‘Furoshiki’, a square cloth that with different wrapping techniques can basically transport anything. With its name meaning ‘bath spread’, Furoshiki is a traditional kind of wrapping cloth made of natural materials like silk and cotton. It is believed to date back to the 8th century. What was at first used to wrap up noblemen’s clothes in bathhouses gradually transported goods and gifts.

Furoshiki zero waste shopping in japan

Click to enlarge. More pictures here.

Modern bags might have outshone Furoshiki, but recent years have seen its comeback as a green alternative to shopping bags, thanks to the ‘Mottainai Furoshiki’ initiative by Yuriko Koike, Japan’s Minister of the Environment, in 2006. “It’s a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full,” said Koike. Like what beauty label LUSH has followed to produce, the modern Furoshiki Koike upheld was made of recycled PET bottles that, as the Minister put it, “can wrap almost anything in it regardless of size or shape with a little ingenuity by simply folding it in a right way.”

The above graph demonstrating different wrapping techniques went viral on the internet. A wave of shops emerged to sell fancy furoshiki. The Minister’s statement holds some truism because a furoshiki does wrap up almost anything of all shapes and fragility – from vegetables to bottles, from wine glasses to eggs, from a baby to a dog. Besides its diversity, Furoshiki is a great alternative to adopt also because of its portability, leaving almost no room for excuses like ‘I forgot to bring my own bag’. Most of the time very decorative because Japanese treat it as an artistic craft, a furoshiki makes a great scarf, headband or pocket square.

ren wanLight and small, it comfortably fits in your pocket or day bag, whilst some furoshiki clothes are big enough to a bag whose form you can change every other day. A personal experiment proves that it helps encourage shoppers to opt for less- or un-packaged options. To avoid unnecessary packaging I visit local grocery stores for unpackaged tomatoes and to the plastic bag addicts’ surprise, it is very easy and light to transport. Just think about how one piece of cloth has the potential to replace all shopping bags. Does it not make it one of the smartest solution to shopping bags and excessive packaging?

This is a guest post by Ren Wan, a writer and sustainability advocate who is based in Hong Kong. She runs JupYeah, an online swapping platform, is a managing editor for WestEast Magazine, and blogs at Loccomama.

Adapting to Climate by Being a Nomad within your own House

While some people seasonally move between dwellings, others are nomads within their own houses. In such diverse places as Iraq, Algeria, and India, climates and cultures may vary, as do the directions and rhythms of movement. But all share migration within the dwelling as a primary mode of adaption to climate.

Families living in traditional courtyard houses of Baghdad, without mechanical ventilation or heating, migrate by day and season for comfort. In September or October, they move around the courtyard to rooms facing south. In April or May they shift to the north-facing rooms. In summer there is a daily vertical migration, the afternoon siesta being spent at the lowest levels and the nighttime sleep traditionally being taken on the roof under the stars.

old baghdad house

Picture: muhammadshnait91.tumblr.com

Such migrations mean that space is used with a freedom unusual in modern life and in the West. Recent correspondence from Mounjia Abdeltif-Benchaabane, a professor of architecture in Algiers, describes how rooms there have not traditionally been organized with regard to individual use or established purpose:

A living room becomes a sleeping room at night. Closets are full of mobile furnishings. In the morning everything is hung near windows to air out under the sun before being reused, perhaps in a different room. The kitchen is a multifunctional space. They cook on the floor even if they have modern tools.

A long-established Arab concern with privacy, in conjunction with the custom of migrating through the house, established the texture of some old cities like Baghdad. Since the roof is used for sleeping during nearly half of the year and the privacy of the family at night is fundamental, no house could look down upon its neighbor nor could one house look into the courtyard of another. The result was an effective building height control with advantages for solar access: no house could overshadow another, thus assuring wintertime light and heat to upper living spaces.

Quoted from “Ritual House: Drawing on Nature’s Rhythms for Architecture and Urban Design“, Ralph L. Knowles, 2006.

The Motorized “Solution” to Harvesting Wheat in Nepal

scythe versus grain wheaperThree short videos demonstrate how an ingenious (and centuries old) adaptation of the scythe for harvesting wheat beats simple tools and high-tech alike.

Steve Leppold writes us:

Here’s an example of a low-tech approach that is clearly superior to the motorized “solution”; and yet the expensive, fossil-fueled “upgrade” is being successfully marketed in developing nations like Nepal and India. One man from Canada is attempting to bring some sanity to the situation.

Alexander Vido and his teenage son brought donated equipment to Nepal in 2012, and made this short video of their volunteer efforts. The project is described at Scythe Project in Nepal.

Thanks, Steve. The project’s website has lots of technical information. Previously: The Religion of Complexity.

A Mattress that Lasts a Lifetime

mattress that lasts a lifetime

“Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: The ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb. The prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants… In Greece, Italy and France mattresses are made by local craftsmen, and are stuffed with 100% wool. These mattresses basically last for life. When the wool gets compressed the mattress guys will empty it out, fluff it up, and re-stuff it, adding more wool if necessary.” [1]

“The bed Mary bought was made by Signor Oldani, a Milanese bed-maker and upholsterer. He made beds the Italian way, and the way we used to make mattresses in England before the introduction of short-lived internally sprung ones.

The beauty of the mattress is that when it needs a wash, the wool can be pulled out, stuffed, in batches, into pillow cases, put through the washing machine and after drying, carded back into fluffy pile before being returned to the mattress cover.

Every few years, it needs to be re-carded, as the wool slowly compacts, says Mary. In Italy during the summer, the mattress man, il cardatore, tours Italian homes, pulls out the wool from their mattresses, re-cards it, adds some more, as the process reduces the stuffing a bit, rebuttons and then sews the mattress cover back up again. Mary submitted her mattress to this process four times.” [2]

“Totally by chance, I found two places in Paris that still make their own 100% wool mattresses by hand… It was ready two days later. They told me to come back in 10 years to have the mattress redone: they pick it up in the morning, take out the wool stuffing, clean and refluff it, put a new cover on it, and then deliver it back to you before bedtime.” [3]

Read more: 1 / 2 / 3. Via Root Simple.

Micromachines: Decentralized Urban Services in South-Asia

VelochariotArchitects Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco have compiled an interesting document that focuses on small-scale technology in countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They photographed, and made technical drawings of miniature taxi’s, family run water turbines, domestic rain harvesting systems, pedal powered kitchens, home digesters, and the like.

The architects consider their work to be a toolbox, a starting point for thinking outside the conventional norms and recepies. They argue that decentralized services are more flexible, provide more autonomy, and are more efficient in space, energy and materials.

Antoni and Blasco present, in their own words, an equivalent to Neufert’s “Architect’s data“, the book for architects that records standardized dimensions for centralized systems. “Micromachins” is written in French but the visuals dominate.

“Micromachins”, Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco, 2011 [download the page to get the high resolution PDF-document]. Thanks to Yann Philippe Tastevin. Update: the architects have added a new link with colour pictures and English translation.