VCs take note: Metropolis probably had no idea what it might get when it sounded a call for designers to “fix our energy addiction” in the magazine’s 2009 Next Generation contest. The top entries, profiled in the May issue, are refreshing and creative—and they seem doable. The prize winner: wind turbines that become a part of the transmission grid, mounted on transmission towers. Eight runners-up include general stores suburbanites can walk to, saving car trips while creating a better neighborhood; valves designed to enable buildings to breathe, automatically controlling air flow for heating and cooling; and a bike designed for rental use, using a system like Zipcar’s.
What struck me most wasn’t the creativity so much as the “humaness” of the solutions. They are approachable, and it’s easy to envision them in the world. I’d like to see more contests that similarly produce ideas for things people will want to use. These contests can be a great way to let folks know about environmentally sound choices and behavior. (Okay, I just added that because felt I had to have a communications hook. But I also believe it.)