So much of sustainability is just getting a little more creative with the ways we work. Whether its Audi’s international think tank or Lance Hosey’s new book on the intersection of design and psychology, people around the globe are solving big problems with small, simple changes. Of course, creativity requires inspiration, which is where we come in. A design firm to watch, a studio to study, a fabrication method to consider, even a website for downtime diversions—it’s all right here. See all our picks below.

What do Van Jones and Andrew Bird have in common? The same thing as Urbio’s modular planters and the oceanic advocates at the TerraMar Project: A Web platform devoted to sustainability culture, SHFT was founded by Hollywood producer Peter Glatzer and actor Adrian Grenier (yep, Vinny Chase from Entourage). The two are devoted activists, yet they aren’t interested in environmental fear-mongering, which is why they post Cornell University’s offer to pay $50,000 for an ivory-billed woodpecker right alongside a Technicolor pop-art fish made out of recycled plastic. To top it off, they make their own wine, sustainably of course. By all means, check out the website, but read our feature too. It’s not every day we get to talk to movie stars.

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A screenshot from the home page of The new blog / media platform by actor Adrian Grenier and producer Peter Glatzer is taking a new approach to sustainability education.

2. Audi Urban Future Initiative
Remaking our cities is not at the top of every car company’s to-do list. But Audi saw that just as “the car shaped the city, the city will shape the car” and launched the Audi Urban Future Initiative in 2010, an interdisciplinary think tank that includes an architectural award, a symposium, and research teams. In August 2012, it teamed up with Architizer to send a blogger named Lindsay Rule across the United States with naught but a smartphone and a solar-panel-fitted backpack. No money. No car. The goal was to test the limits of social networks. Rule used Twitter, Facebook, Airbnb, and other networks to find beds, rides, and meals, and she arrived safe and sound in San Francisco (that’s her photo below) just 14 days after leaving Boston. Okay, Audi, you’ve got our attention. Let’s talk about the future.


This photo, by blogger Lindsay Rule, aka Archispotter, was taken after she successfully traveled from Boston to San Francisco using only the resources she could find via social media.

3. The Shape of Green
“Picture two objects. One uses energy conservatively but is dull, unsightly, or uncomfortable. The other is gorgeous but a glutton for fossil fuels. Which is more likely to endure—the responsible one or the ravishing one?” In his new book, Lance Hosey gets at what he calls a fundamental design flaw: letting the need for energy-efficient buildings trump our desire for beautiful ones. Hosey, a veteran of sustainable design who served as a director at William McDonough + Partners and leads sustainable-production consultancy GreenBlue, makes a strong argument for intelligent buildings we also love. Smart, well-written, and accessible to professionals outside the design field, The Shape of Green is worth checking out—especially since the fractal pattern on the cover has been shown to reduce stress, just by looking at it.


4. New York writer’s studio
Cooper Joseph Studio’s 525-square-foot Thoreau-meets-Brooklynite workspace in Ghent, New York, is just as natural as its woodland surroundings. In fact, most of the building is wood, which is also its main source of heat. An interior of walnut—used on everything from the polished floors and the furniture to the sliding doors and bathroom sink—is warmed in the winter by a stove that burns wood harvested on-site, helped by the black-stained cedar exterior, which absorbs solar energy. It’s a clean, clutter-free studio that’s perhaps a luxury for most working writers but also a showcase of smart sustainability.


Cooper Joseph’s writer’s studio in Ghent, NY, is as idyllic as it is energy efficient.


The interior features clean lines and rich, dark wood. The fireplace is the main source of heat in the winter.

5. FACIT’s on-site fabrication
Prefab homes are nothing new, but digital fabrication and 3-D printing technologies are growing so fast, we don’t even remember what they looked like when they were born. FACIT Homes, of London, caught our eye with its practice of bringing a CNC (computer numerical control) machine on-site and fabricating the building materials right there. Not only is there essentially no waste, but there also are no emissions or other environmental consequences that come from the logistics of shipping. It’s a process the company thinks is ideal for both self-builders and contractors, and it ensures an extremely airtight envelope, which will help homeowners keep warm air inside the house. With a growing list of clients, we hope the FACIT idea will continue catching on.

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6. Rebar
Here’s what we know about Rebar: It’s a design studio in San Francisco. It’s worked with the city’s planning department, the always great Carmel Partners, social game-maker Zynga, and TriMet, Portland’s transit authority, just to name a few. It’s behind PARK(ing) days all over the world, which turn parking spots into public spaces. It’s completed a band shell made entirely out of reclaimed materials, a pop-up garden in front of City Hall, and an armada of ceramic nests for the Rhinoceros Auklet, a nearly endangered seabird, on Año Nuevo Island, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. City planners, jot this website down:


Just one of many PARK(ing) Day installations, where parking spaces are turned into pocket parks and public gathering spaces. Rebar has been a proponent of the movement.

For more Editor’s Picks, go here.