Sustainable Transportation, Anyone?

shapeimage_4.pngWe live in a country run by design. It dictates what we buy, how we dress, and even what we eat. Designers have revolutionized how we interact with the world, and have made seemingly impossible technologies become realities for consumers. What happens when these same people turn their focus on social issues, rather than product development?

Whether it's called "sustainable design" or "design for the other 90%," the new trend among young designers to use design platforms to solve global (and local) issues is making waves in the philanthropic sector. Funding for innovative, sustainable solutions to problems is becoming commonplace, and foundations are starting to philanthrosource design companies and independent innovators in order to solve problems which have not been effectively addressed by traditional efforts.

Given the wide world of sustainable design, it's hard for a policy/tech geek like me to stay focused on one project for this post. But the Bamboo Bike Project particularly caught my eye. The project is working to build a bamboo cargo bike industry in Africa, using a widely-available resource to solve serious transportation woes that exist across the continent. Instead of attempting to ship traditional American bikes to Africa and distribute them to villages via truck (as a traditional effort would do), the engineers at The Earth Institute at Columbia University have designed a bike that can be built from naturally-available (and eco-friendly) resources. Further, they have set up a plan that will allow the bikes to be built and distributed by the African communities themselves. This will ensure that the project is correctly focused, and implemented in the most efficient manner. Sustainable design projects like this one are inspiring, and offer an exciting new world of options for donors looking to support eco-friendly, and socially-progressive efforts.

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Nov 13, 2008 in Global Philanthropy | Philanthropic Strategy | Permalink | Comment