[s]Designer, architect[/s], [b]and author Emily[/b] Pilloton is founder of the non-profit Project H Design, where chapters of designers around the world collaborate on products that improve the four H's: habitats, humanity, health and happiness. While working to develop products like the Hippo Roller, a water transportation device, or the Learning Landscape, a low-budget playground for teaching math, Pilloton began collecting examples of similar products that solved social problems. Her book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People (Metropolis) features 115 solutions that range from high-tech prototypes from industrial design firms to DIY hacks that originated in the developing world. –Alissa Walker
Hippo Water Roller

The Hippo Water Roller, designed in 1991 by South Africans Johan Jonker and Pettie Petzer, provides a safe and efficient alternative to the traditional African practice of carrying water on one’s head, which can result in serious cranial and spinal injuries. The rotationally molded, UV-sterilized, polyethylene barrel holds approximately 24 gallons of water, compared to the 2.5- to 5-gallon capacity of traditional methods. One trip with the Hippo Roller transports enough water for a family of five to seven for up to one week. Beyond the Hippo roller\’s immediate function and efficiency, its implementation has resulted in quantifiable, tangible social impact in part of South Africa. In communities that use the Hippo Roller, men have begun to view fetching water as a more masculine, worthwhile chore, and education and literacy rates for women and children have improved. Price:$90

SinkPositive

SinkPositive saves water by using a toilet’s freshwater refill cycle for hand washing, then channeling the dirty sink water into the bowl. The system, designed by Environmental Designworks, LLC, fits as a lid on most standard toilets. When the toilet flushes normally, the new freshwater is piped up to the sink on top of the lid which then drains into the bowl. Price: $109-$119

Antivirus

Designer, Han Pham, created Antivirus to facilitate the safe removal and disposal of needles immediately after they are used out of a simple, polypropylene plastic cap that permanently attaches to the top a standard aluminum soda can. After performing an injection, the user places the syringe’s needle tip into the cap’s opening, which is too small for a finger to pass through, and drops the needle into the container. Each can holds 150 to 400 needles depending on its depth.

HomeHero Fire Extinguisher

Made exclusively for The Home Depot, the HomeHero Fire Extinguisher is a user-friendly alternative to the traditional red fire extinguisher, which most users find cumbersome to use, and often consider to be eyesores. With the HomeHero’s molded rubber grip, highly visible safety pin, and trigger on its handle, it can be deployed with one hand, making it easy to use. Its sleek form makes it suitable for more visible display, and as a result more likely to be within arm’s reach during an emergency. As a bonus, it can be wirelessly connect to the brand’s two-in-one Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm via an accessory docking station. Price: $30, with a 12-year warranty

Club WATT

After the success of a sold-out, one-time party in 2006 that explored the idea of powering a nightclub with kinetic energy created by dancing, Club WATT opened on September 4, 2008 in Rotterdam after close to two years of design and technological development. The technology behind Club WATT, devised by Sustainable Dance Club (SDC), Dutch sustainable innovation firm Enviu, and design studio Döll, is a dance floor that converts the movement of a dancing crowd into electricity. Each person in the club is able to produce 2 to 20 watts, and the then harvested energy is fed back inton some of the club’s electrical system to power systems, including LED light displays embedded into the floor. Additionally, the club uses heat from the main dance room to warm other rooms and harvests rainwater to flush toilets.

EnerJar

Designed by two third-year students at Washington University in St. Louis, Zach Dwiel and Matt Meshulam, EnerJar is a homemade device that measure the power used by household appliances. The system consists of a circuit board, potentiometer (control voltage), LED display, microchip, and standard power cord, all housed within a jar. The tool sits between a wall outlet and household electrical device, calling attention to the appliance’s electricity consumption by displaying the watts of power it is using. To build, just visit the EnerJar website.

Learning Landscape

Learning Landscape is a scalable, grid-based playground system for elementary math education. Because math is universal, Learning Landscape can be adapted for use in any country and can be tailored to a range of skill levels. The designers (Project H Design fellows Heleen de Goey, Ilona de Jongh, Kristina Drury, Dan Grossman, and Neha Thatte) conceived 10 math-based games to be played with a square grid, which can be built in a four-by-four, five-by-five, or six-by-six configuration based on the number of students and space constraints. First built in Southern Uganda’s Kutamba AIDS Orphan School, a 16-point grid was constructed using reclaimed tires arranged inside a large sandbox—the tires are easily marked with numbers by chalk, and also serve as points on the grid.

Tack-Tiles Braille System

Around the world, literacy is generally accepted as a foundation for academic studies, however, only about 10 percent of visually impaired children have access to quality literacy education. The Tack-Tiles Braille System, designed by Kevin Murphy, and which is based on the stackable properties of LEGO blocks, is a highly applicable teaching tool for various academic subjects to aid both the blind and visually impaired. The system is available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, as well as Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics, Braille for music notation, and computer Braille code. Price:$695

SkySails

SkySails are large-scale wind propulsions for cargo vessels similar to conventional sailing systems, but differ in that they are attached to the ship via a long towing rope rather than fitted to the mast. They consist of three major components: the towing kite and rope, the launch and recover system, and a control unit for automatic operation. When in effect they transform large cargo ships with effective loads of 8 to 32 tons into sailboats, capturing the wind as energy, and reducing a ship’s annual fuel costs by 10 to 35 percent.

Walk Score

While public transit websites often offer trip planners, Walk Score, developed by civic software company Front Seat, encourages walking as a viable mode of local transportation and exercise, and helps people find places to live or visit where walking is an option for transportation. How to use it: Simply enter an address to calculate a location’s score (on a scale of one to 100). A score of 90 to 100, for example, is classified as “Walker’s Paradise,” while a score of zero to 24 is “Car-Dependent (Driving Only).” Price:Free

Daily Dump

To address the waste issues of Bangalore, India, designer Poonam Bir Kasturi created Daily Dump, a one-stop shop for pots, tools, and services that delivers the benefits of aerobic composting to homes throughout India. Users of the system purchase the earthenware pots from a wide selection: single or stacked, unpainted or painted, individual or family capacity, indoor or outdoor, and even compost-and-plant pots. Customers can buy any combination of the vessels, along with tools and instruction material, to personalize the composting system for their needs. Price:$2.50-$25

mesu

Mesu, a set of six porcelain nesting bowls designed by Jennifer Panepinto, is a graceful tool for those trying to eat healthfully. The bowls range in size from .5 cup to 2 cups and measure portions with fill lines and colorful graphic systems that allow users to know exactly how much they are consuming. The bowls have been utilized by diabetics, parents concerned with their children’s weight, and generally health-conscious eaters. Price:$49.95 per set

DIY Soccer Balls

Soccer—or “football”-- is a sport played all over the world, and the ball being kicked can range from top-quality World Cup balls, to handmade plastic or cloth ones. Some DIY soccer ball designs have been leveraged into viable business enterprises creating jobs for stitchers through local production. All DIY soccer balls represent a design achievement in bringing the sport to children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. Liza Forester and Marti Guixe focused on the creation of a sustainable enterprise in the development of the conceptual project, Let’s Kick It, which provides women and orphan girls afflicted by AIDS with patterns to stitch fabric soccer balls that are then stuff with plastic bags and sold. Make your own DIY balls using football tape and recycle plastic bags as seen in the photo above. Price: $18 for tape

Nike + iPod Sport Kit

The Nike + iPod Sport Kit connects shoe to gadget, using an iPod to monitor a runner’s fitness performance while he is jogging to a personalized soundtrack. Nike+ shoes have built-in pockets beneath their insole that hold a piezoelectric accelerometer sensor, and receiver attaches to an iPod nano or iPod touch. The sensor monitors movement and converts that motion into usable data. As the user runs, information about his speed, distance, and calories burned is sent to the iPod, where it can be viewed and tracked.

Nike + iPod Sport Kit

Donation Meter Program

The The Donation Meter Program program uses nonfunctioning parking meters as donation “piggy banks,” where individuals can deposit spare change. The city of Denver conceived of the program to serve as a middleman between donations and aid from Denver citizens to the homeless. The collections go directly to the Mile High United Way to fund predetermined programs to benefit the homeless population. Within the first month of the program’s implementation in March 2007, 16,411 coins totaling $2,000 had been collected. The organizers anticipate $100,000 in yearly coin contributions and sponsorships from this program.

Nike + iPod Sport Kit

Publicolor

The Publicolor program uses the power of color and collaboration to transform struggling public schools into invigorating learning environments. Students, along with Publicolor volunteers, paint the public spaces of their dreary schools, transforming them into inviting and visually stimulating learning environments. Through participation in the painting and supplementary programs, which include weekly career workshops, one-on-one tutoring sessions, and community service projects, Publicolor students are empowered to enrich their schools, neighborhoods, and themselves.

16 Inventions That Boost Habitats, Humanity, Health and Happiness

While working to develop products like the Hippo Roller, a water transportation device, Emily Pilloton, founder of the non-profit Project H Design, began collecting examples of similar products that solved social problems. Her recently released book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People features those findings. Featured here are sixteen examples from the book.

Designer, architect, and author Emily Pilloton is founder of the non-profit Project H Design, where chapters of designers around the world collaborate on products that improve the four H's: habitats, humanity, health and happiness. While working to develop products like the Hippo Roller, a water transportation device, or the Learning Landscape, a low-budget playground for teaching math, Pilloton began collecting examples of similar products that solved social problems. Her book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People (Metropolis) features 115 solutions that range from high-tech prototypes from industrial design firms to DIY hacks that originated in the developing world. –Alissa Walker

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