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The sharing economy is thriving in Berlin’s “borrowing shops”

cordless-drill-woman-flickr
Lizbt Action

Nikolai Wolfert wasn’t the only one who was bummed after the Berlin Green Party’s loss in 2011, but he channeled his disappointment in a pretty unique way: opening a lending library for everything. The 31-year-old launched his donation-supported shop, Leila, in June 2012 as a way of making local political change.

And to call it a success would be an understatement. More than 400 Berliners have joined Leila, donating and borrowing everything from electric drills to board games, unicycles, and wine glasses. Leila’s spawned a slew of good-natured copycats too, according to the Guardian:

Borrowing shops are under development in several Berlin districts, with similar projects being set up in Kiel and Vienna. Würzburg has its own Leihbar, or "borrowing bar," and a cafe in Berlin-Wedding has set up a Dingeschrank, or "cupboard for things." Other collaborative projects with an emphasis on sharing resources are popping up all over the German capital.

Car-sharing is flourishing in the country as well -- the Guardian reports 760,000 Germans are registered with companies like Car2Go, DriveNow, and Tamyca. And they're going green in other ways too:

Read more: Cities, Living

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This “ski lift for cyclists” helps you get up hills

trampe-cyclocable-bike-ski-lift
Trampe

Not every cyclist has monster thighs or an electric bike (or access to switchbacks, for that matter). Trondheim, Norway, has a solution for those of us with Gumby legs: the Trampe CycloCable.

The city built “the world's first bicycle lift intended for urban areas” in 1993, and over the next 15 years it ferried some 200,000 cyclists up the 426-foot Brubakken hill. The way it works is that you stand on your bike with your left foot and rest your right on a foot plate that looks like a track-and-field starting block; the plate runs on a recessed cable that winches you up the hill.

Last year, Trondheim made safety upgrades, and now the CycloCable is functional again:

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Bill Maher says you aren’t an environmentalist unless you care about overpopulation

OK, so the green movement needs to get away from the words “environment,” “Earth,” and “planet,” but TV host Bill Maher has a fantastic point (for once): If you care about sustainability -- hell, if you care about the future at all -- you should be seriously worried about overpopulation.

Maher spoke with Countdown author Alan Weisman in an insightful, much-needed conversation. “This is a topic most environmental groups won’t touch,” Weisman began. (We will!)

Weisman noted that Iran has the best family planning programs in history, with free birth control and premarital classes that teach just how frickin’ expensive it is to raise a kid. Plus, women are encouraged to stay in school, which delays parenthood. (As Maher says, “Education is the best contraception.”) Watch -- it’s eight minutes worth seeing:

Read more: Living

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This bike glows in the dark when headlights hit it

mission-lumen-glow-in-the-dark-bike
Mission Bicycle Company

Aside from stringing your bike and entire body in flashing holiday lights, it’s hard to find an elegant solution to the cyclist night visibility problem. Enter Mission Bicycle Company’s new bike, the Lumen. The cycle, which comes in eight-speed or single-speed, is a normal charcoal gray during the day and shines radiantly when night drivers’ beams glance over it. Wired explains:

The entire bike -- frame, fork, and rims -- has been sprayed with a retro-reflective coating. Hundreds of thousands of tiny transparent spheres are embedded in a top-layer of powdercoat. This trick was mastered by a company called Halo Coatings, which joined Mission Bicycle Co. to develop the Lumen.

Or as Mission says, “Dark gray by day, bright white at night.” Genius, no?

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Designer furnishes an entire room with trash

recycled-chairs-paulo-goldstein-small

“In an increasingly deskilled society,” wrote the sociologist Richard Sennett, “‘making' can be viewed as a form of political resistance.” British designer Paulo Goldstein recently took this to heart, dumpster-diving not only as part of a design job, but as an opportunity for commentary on our culture of consumption.

London’s Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design tasked Goldstein with outfitting one of its entry rooms. Inspired by the idea that scarcity could be an opportunity rather than a constraint, the recent grad put together a team that scoured London for bits of broken furniture. Using only 980 feet of rope and pieces of old chairs and tables, Goldstein’s team furnished the entry room with 10 cobbled-together chairs, a side table, main table, and wooden mobile.

Writes Fast Company:

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Finally, a way to actually make your office a comfortable temperature

You can finally do something about the frigid temperatures at work other than whine and pretend a Snuggie is business casual. New app CrowdComfort tallies employee votes about whether it’s too hot or cold straight from your smartphone, mapping out what parts of the office are uncomfortable and helping building managers save energy.

CrowdComfort’s creators are based in the Boston area, where humid summers and snowy winters make climate-controlled workspaces a must. The app, however, is more quantitative and, ultimately, more fair than just having your bossiest coworker get up to fiddle with the thermostat.

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This tandem bike shrinks to a solo one for after you’ve been dumped

Before your breakup.
Gizmag
Before your breakup.

Calfee Design makes some pretty sweet bamboo bikes, but now it's even anticipating your change in Facebook relationship status. To make breakups a little less painful -- or just make tandem bikes more versatile -- the cycle company created a convertible tandem that you can turn into a solo bike. (It’s a bicycle built for two! Slash one!)

...aaand after.
Gizmag
... aaand after.

The carbon fiber bicycle was a custom design for a couple, so it’s not widely available (yet), but it was recently on display at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show for people to drool over. Gizmag explains the bike’s logistics:

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Turn your poop into charcoal and cook with it!

charcoal-briquettes-flickr
MooBob42

Turds may LOOK like little lumps of charcoal, but, in one of nature’s cruelest tragedies, you can’t really roast a hot dog over them. OR CAN YOU?!

University of Colorado environmental engineering professor Karl Linden thinks you can, and not because he’s been legally smoking doobies. He's working on a solar-powered toilet that turns waste into biochar, which can be used as fuel. This takes lighting your farts to a whole new level:

Read more: Living

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Pat Robertson: God caused a power outage to punk politicians who care about climate change

Can you believe those Democratic senators, staying up all night to chat about something as frivolous as climate change? Well, thankfully a straight white evangelical male God had a hearty chuckle at their expense, at least in confirmed wacko Pat Robertson’s version of things.

The fundamentalist TV preacher, who is essentially just a neckless sack of fear and hate, recently said on air that Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, and others got a prank for the ages when the guy in the sky sent them a brief power outage:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This eye condition means you don’t see pedestrians — but in many states, you can still drive

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Marie Coleman

As surprising as it is, people who have lost sight in half their visual field in both eyes -- a condition called hemianopia -- can legally drive in 20-some states. In addition to the usual worries -- a driver smashing into your bike, T-boning you, or never seeing your obscene gestures -- this is troublesome because these drivers don’t see pedestrians, according to a new paper in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute compared people with and without hemianopia, using a driving simulator:

People with hemianopia have to look (scan) with eye and/or head movements toward the side of the field loss in order to see obstacles or hazards on that side. “The wide field of view that needs to be scanned at intersections presents an especially challenging situation for drivers with hemianopia as they have to scan larger angles than drivers with a full field of vision in order to see all of the intersection on the side of the field loss,” said lead author Alex Bowers, Ph.D.

Read more: Cities, Living