34 Crowdsourced Ideas For Solving Climate Change

Climate CoLab’s latest submissions include color-coding products based on carbon footprint and examining sea level rise with a 3-D gaming engine.

34 Crowdsourced Ideas For Solving Climate Change
[Top photo: BobbyWjr via Shutterstock]

MIT’s Climate CoLab has been crowd-sourcing solutions to climate change for four years now. An initiative of the MIT Center For Collective Intelligence, the platform has received thousands of ideas over that time, from the solidly practical to the downright weird (we covered a few here). The 2014 class is no different. Across 18 contests, CoLab received 600 proposals in all, from this plan to harness the power of lightning to this concept ship that powers itself by rocking side-to-side on the waves. Judges shortened the list to 64, before the public voted for 34 winners. Below are a few of our favorites


Carbon labeling

We have labels for fat, sugar and salt, so why not for carbon footprint? This proposal would create a traffic light system, with “red” indicating most carbon-intensive and green indicating lowest intensity.

From the submission:

For consumers to make more informed food decisions, it seems necessary to develop a more consistent, standardized system of supermarket shelving, with easy clear classifications of food products depending on their overall footprint. This system should be universal, such that it’s easy for supermarket sellers to apply to their full product range, and most importantly, be quick and simple for shoppers to follow.

In practice, that means a steak from Argentina would be in one part of the color-coded store, while carrots from a local farm would be in another. Services like GoodGuide already provide some of this information, though it’s not as easy to use as this system might be. The proposal comes from Hannah Ritchie, a CoLab member from Scotland.

Voicemails from the future

If we’re still making phone calls 50 years from now, this is what they might sound like. FutureCoast is a storytelling project that encourages people to record voicemails on climate themes.

Through the messages we get glimpses of the future, including electric hydrofoils that go up the Maine coast, to energy generated from algae in Paris. FutureCoast “creates a safe space where multiple future narratives can coexist, and respects its participants and observers for what they know and share,” says the submission.


Carbon currency

4C is a digital currency that exists on the internet and cellphones. People are rewarded for actions that mitigate or sequester carbon, with the 4C convertible to local currencies for real spending. The project is aimed at maintaining tropical forests and woodlands as carbon sinks.

Sea level rise in 3-D

The Coastal Impact Visualization Environment (CLIVE) was created by researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island and Simon Fraser University, in Canada. It uses a powerful 3-D game engine to give a bird’s eye of view of future sea level rise and its consequences for 750 miles of Canadian coastline.

Food bikes

Developed at UC Berkeley, the Food Bikery proposes “food bikes” as an alternative to food trucks. “Food bikes promote interaction between chef and eater. The experience will be more similar to a ‘street food’ experience, where the cooking is done on the street level as opposed to hidden inside a vehicle,” says the submission. They also use less fuel, take up less space, and open up the market to more players. To get around refrigeration issues, the project proposes a GPS tracking system time-limiting how long food could be sold for.

Climate CoLab will announce a winner in November. See the rest of the finalists here.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.