Jess Zimmerman

Jess Zimmerman was the editor of Grist List.

Cut trash with tiny trash cans

We tend to associate the "everything bigger" approach with wastefulness -- oversized cars guzzle gas, McMansions drive up electricity bills, 72-ounce challenge steaks never get fully eaten. So it makes sense to think that downsizing trash cans might help downsize trash. That's what they're finding at Dartmouth College, anyway, where trash cans as small as quart-size yogurt containers (that's my ineptly 'shopped comparison above) are cutting down on waste.

New solar cells can be printed on paper or fabric

Finally, your dream of solar pants (that don't look douchey) can come true! MIT researchers have devised solar panels that can be printed directly onto fabric, plastic, or paper, as easily as printing from an inkjet. The result is a flexible, malleable solar panel with enough juice to power ... well, okay, barely any juice at all right now. But it's still in the early stages of development! Besides, once you pair your solar pants with a solar shirt, tie, bag, fedora, and shoes, it'll start to add up, and you will also look very snappy.

Zero-energy lighting for poor communities requires only water and bleach

It can get pretty dark under the corrugated metal roofs of Manila’s slums. Millions of families in the Philippines go without electric light, and those who have it can be at risk of fires from faulty wiring. But thanks to an innovation developed at MIT and distributed by the Liter of Light project, that problem can be solved with just a hole in the roof, a bottle of water, and some bleach. The bleach and water solution refracts sunlight, illuminating the insides of close-packed shanties in a way that windows can’t. Installation takes less than an hour and costs little, …