November 13th, 2012
10:42 AM ET

Nalini Nadkarni: The tree-climbing scientist who brings plants to prison

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - Nalini Nadkarni is a pioneer in tree canopy research and co-founder of the Sustainability in Prisons Project, which aims to teach inmates about ecology. Watch a 30-minute profile of  on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on CNN’s “The Next List."

Here's a primer on why she is fascinating enough to make The Next List.

Why you've heard of her: You probably haven't. Unless you're a tree climbing scientist or an inmate in Washington state (more on that soon). Oh - or you may have seen "Heroes of the High Frontiers," an Emmy-winning National Geographic film. She's in that. Or maybe you were one of the lucky few to get your hands on the "Tree Top Barbie Doll" she developed. FULL POST

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Filed under: Education • Environment • Innovation • Science • Social change • The Next List • Thinkers • World
October 17th, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Lowline: proposal for the world's first underground park in NYC

By Julia Lull and Brittany Rivera, Special to CNN

New York (CNN) - In crowded cities like Manhattan where most people work and live in high-rise buildings, there is a desire for green space and fresh air. Rather than create another park above the ground, two designers have proposed the LowLine, what they call “the world’s first underground park.”

The project, founded by Dan Barasch and James Ramsey, would take the old Essex Street Trolley Terminal located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and convert it into a subterranean playground, complete with sunlight.

After a friend and former MTA employee told Barasch and Ramsey about the amount of unused space underground, they decided to build something that would use the free space in the city, rather than add to the already dense skyline. FULL POST

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Filed under: Design • Environment • The Next List • Video
September 28th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

The trash queen of Guatemala

Editor's NoteJoyce Maynard is the author of best selling novels "Labor Day" and "To Die For," as well as the explosive 1998 memoir "At Home in the World." She maintains a home in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala.

Susana Heisse is an environmental activist who uses the “eco-brick” to promote recycling and proper nutrition in Guatemalan schools. She will be profiled on CNN's The Next List Sunday, September 30th, at 2 p.m. ET.

By Joyce Maynard, Special to CNN

I first met Susanne Heisse in the fall of 2001, when I traveled to Guatemala with the plan of spending a few months in the astonishingly beautiful little Mayan village of San Marcos la Laguna, on the shores of the clear blue waters of Lake Atitlan.

It would have been hard to miss Susanne: at six feet tall, she towered over every indigenous person in the village, and most of the gringos, striding down the narrow stone paths of the village in her flowing skirts, with her flowing hair, and her big, commanding voice. She'd talk — in somewhat unconventional English, or her native German, or Spanish — about a subject few of the rest of us (at our yoga classes, and drumming circles, or taking our daily swims) chose to think about: The unromantic topic of trash. FULL POST


Filed under: Environment • Innovation • Social change • The Next List • Thinkers • TV
September 25th, 2012
10:49 AM ET

Turning trash into building material

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - Susanne Heisse is founder of Pura Vida, a movement for alternative trash management in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Her innovation: the eco-brick.

In its simplest form, the eco-brick is a plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash. Stuffed to capacity, these bottles are of sufficient integrity to be used as building blocks for homes and schools throughout Central America.

With the help of the Peace Corps and charities like Hug It Forward, this deceptively simple building innovation is now spreading throughout the world. FULL POST

September 17th, 2012
01:51 PM ET

Carbon negative in Costa Rica

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - In 1974, 23-year-old Juan Sostheim was tapped as director of Burger King in Europe. He opened the company’s first franchises on the continent and introduce millions to a phenomenon known as the “Whopper.”

Today, the former fast food king has traded in his crown for a new title: owner of Costa Rica’s first carbon-negative company, a sustainable farm and eco-resort known as Rancho Margot.

“What I’m doing today is basically the sum of my experiences,” say Sostheim. “I understand it’s a little bit crazy, but I think it should give people some hope that we all can change.” FULL POST

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September 14th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Opinion: Common sense choices can fight climate change

Editor's note: Juan Sostheim is owner and founder of Rancho Margot, an eco-resort, educational facility and sustainable farm in Costa Rica. Sostheim is the subject of Sunday's episode of "The Next List," on CNN at 2 p.m. ET.

By Juan Sostheim, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Almost 40 years have gone by since I graduated from the University of Florida and started my professional career. I remember being relieved that the Vietnam War was nearly over and the threat of someone pushing "the button" and starting a nuclear war was becoming an unlikely scenario.

As terrible as these issues were, we always felt that we could somehow it behind us.

Today, we face a very different problem and it’s one which most people feel powerless to do something about on an individual level. I’m referring to climate change.

There have always been and will always be naysayers, but no one can stay on the sidelines and hope someone else will do the right thing. We all must become eco-literate. We all must participate.

In the scientific community, there is no doubt about where we are heading and what is causing it. There is some legitimate debate about how long the devastation due to climate change will take, how much damage we can expect or where, but the situation as a whole is clear; global warming is real and if we don’t change, life will forever be different. I’m an optimist and I know we can change. We must adapt and mitigate but most important of all we must let everyone know where we stand or it will continue to be business as usual.

When I built Rancho Margot, an eco-resort in Costa Rica, I had to make choices. I wanted to have the smallest possible environmental impact - but at the same time I needed to get tourists to come and support what we were doing. How was I going to sell my vision to people who don't believe in climate change? My mission became to get people to realize that small changes in lifestyle can have a big impact. There is no need to sacrifice.

So what is it that we as individuals can do? First and foremost, we must demand that the true cost of all products and services be visible for all to see. This is only possible if we demand that carbon footprints be measured under strict international norms. At Rancho Margot, we chose the PAS 2060 norms from the British Institute of Standards. We emit 115 tons of carbon dioxide per year and, through our mitigation efforts, sequester 1,375 tons. That means we had a minus-1,260-ton carbon footprint in 2011. As consumers, we need to demand this information.

Forget, for the moment, the global picture. This is about us. I want to know how much carbon we emit. I need to know. If this is not consumer protection, I don’t know what is. In the UK, all public companies are now required to report and certify their carbon footprint. It’s a start. It is a slow process and we have little time. In the absence of this consumer protection we need to make common sense choices. We can buy locally produced fruits and vegetables. We can buy quality that lasts and things that can be locally repaired. We need to stop supporting our own destruction. There is a whole sustainable future out there and it’s up to us.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Juan Sostheim.

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Filed under: Culture • Environment • Innovation • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
September 11th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Former fast-food exec goes green

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - Juan Sostheim is a pioneer in scalable, sustainable living. As founder of Rancho Margot, a luxury eco-tourist resort, educational facility and organic farm in Costa Rica, he’s demonstrating that “living off the grid” is not only possible but practical for large-scale communities.

Working with a staff of about 45 people and some 10 to 15 rotating volunteers, Sostheim produces all the food for the resort on the premises. He heats the water - including that for the massive hot tub with swim up tiki bar - by composting; he fuels their kitchen with methane gas from cows and pigs; he generates his own electricity; and he creates bio-fuels.

 

Rancho Margot began nine years ago when Sostheim, a former Burger King executive turned industrial chemical magnate, bought a cow pasture in what once was a Costa Rican rain forest. Concerned about environmental issues and food security in developing nations, his goal was to create a profitable resort dedicated to sustainability. Now he hopes to see Rancho Margot transition into a thriving, teaching community - one that still caters to tourists, but does not depend on them in full. To this end, he is planning a residential community where about 100 families can live and work on the ranch. By collaborating with the local population, Sostheim hopes to create a prosperous and fully integrated community able to sustain itself for generations.

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Signal-blocking wallpaper stops Wi-Fi stealing (and comes in a snowflake pattern!)
July 18th, 2012
11:35 AM ET

Signal-blocking wallpaper stops Wi-Fi stealing (and comes in a snowflake pattern!)

By Olivia Smith, Special to CNN

New York (CNN) - Imagine wallpaper that does work for you and for your electronics. Wallpaper that doesn’t only protect your walls, but also protects your health, equipment and data.

Researchers at France’s Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble have worked with the Centre Technique du Papier to develop Wi-Fi-blocking wallpaper. The product, also known as metapaper, claims to selectively filter, reduce or reflect electromagnetic waves.

Metapaper not only protects against intruders stealing Wi-Fi from buildings, but also ensures that signals inside a building are more secure and stronger, the group says. Benefits include data security for companies or people that need dependable Wi-Fi. The wallpaper can also be used to create quieter spaces for places like hospitals and movie theaters. FULL POST

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Filed under: Culture • Design • Environment • Innovation • Internet • Tech
June 29th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Why teachers should put students to work

Editor's note: Simon Hauger started Philadelphia's "Sustainability Workshop," a program for inner-city high school seniors that's organized around projects rather than traditional curriculum. Students build electric go-karts and solar charging stations. CNN's "The Next List" will feature Hauger on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By Simon Hauger, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Working with teenagers is wonderful. They are a joy and a challenge. They are youthful optimists who believe in their power, and have boundless energy. Young people don’t know what they don’t know, and rather than making them arrogant, it fills them with hopeful idealism. As teachers, it is our job to make direct and audacious demands on their idealism.

My journey began 14 years ago in an after-school program I created at West Philadelphia High to engage kids around math and science. My students entered and won the Philadelphia Science Fair, something kids from West Philly weren’t supposed to do. Then we grew the program into the Electric Vehicle (EVX) Team. We built a full-size electric vehicle that outperformed top universities in the nation’s largest alternative fuel vehicle competition, the Tour de Sol. We went on to create the world’s first hybrid super-car: an awesome hybrid vehicle that was fast and environmentally friendly. At a time when most people had never heard of hybrids, West Philly students were building cars that were greener than the Prius and hotter than the Corvette. The EVX Team was gaining traction and recognition. FULL POST

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Inside Philadelphia's energy innovation hub
June 27th, 2012
01:51 PM ET

Inside Philadelphia's energy innovation hub

By Heather M. Higgins, CNN

Philadelphia (CNN) –  There's a monstrous industrial eyesore that sits ominously along Philadelphia's Delaware River waterfront. However, behind the cobalt blue gates at the southernmost tip of Broad Street is a booming energy innovation center that has the potential to put the City of Brotherly Love back on the national map.

“This area was lifeless and look at it now – it's really special,” said Dave Ziel, chief development officer of Urban Outfitters, Inc, which, along with others, is helping revitalize the Navy Yard area. “The isolation is what gives it the opportunity itself.”

The hipster-friendly retailer, which also operates the Free People and Anthroplogie brands, moved its headquarters into the 19th century red brick workshops at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard in 2005. The workspace promotes a culture of socialization and connectivity while maintaining the integrity of each brand. FULL POST

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