"In 2008, I was designing a lot of museum exhibits about environmental issues, but people can't appreciate the environment unless they engage in it. So I began an online community around the idea of R&DIY—research and develop-it-yourself—and proposed that we create an in-home garden made of recycled bottles [left], called Windowfarms. Within two years, I had 25,000 members, many of whom were working to perfect the system, which is used to grow fresh greens. We tried selling the first version of it as a DIY kit funded via Kickstarter, but people had trouble finding bottles with the right shape needed for the plants' root systems. We ultimately teamed with an industrial designer to create a ready-made product. Now, 2,300 have sold, which is gratifying: We've encouraged people to be mindful of how their relationship with food impacts the environment. It wouldn't have happened without the online community. When people are engaged, they care so much more." ($120, windowfarms.org)
A version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.