Inhabitat's Week in Green: Aero-X hoverbike, vertical forest towers and a braille robot

Updated ·3 min read

Climate change is already causing serious problems, including extreme weather events, drought and wildfires like the massive fire that displaced thousands of people in San Diego County this week. But one of the most concerning effects of climate change is sea level rise. This week, the world got some sobering news when we learned that a large section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed. Although scientists have warned that we've already reached the point of no return with climate change, transitioning to green design and technology is more urgent than ever. Transportation accounts for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, so we were pleased to learn that an electric bus produced by the South Carolina-based company Proterra broke the world record for most miles traveled in a day when it traveled over 700 miles in 24 hours. And file this one in the "We'll believe it when we see it" drawer: China plans to build an 8,000-plus mile railroad connecting China, Russia, Canada and the US. The plan includes a 125-mile undersea tunnel spanning the Bering Strait.

In other green transportation news, a Nigerian student strapped a large solar panel on the roof of a VW Beetle and added a wind turbine under the hood, transforming it into a clean energy vehicle. Best of all? The project only cost $6,000. Sci-fi writers have long dreamed of floating from place to place on hovercraft, and that may soon become a reality. Aerofex just announced plans to produce its Aero-X hoverbike, which looks like a Star Wars speeder bike -- and it will be available by 2017 for just $85,000. The Dutch company Bough Bikes made a splash at NYCxDesign by unveiling the world's first electric wooden bike. The LA-based sustainable-skateboard company Bureo recently developed the world's first skateboard made out of recycled fishing nets. Honda produced a new car that has such clean emissions that the car company wants you to drink them. In NYC, the MTA is developing an app that will enable riders to purchase paperless tickets for their smartphones. And in one of the week's strangest Craigslist finds, we bring you a fully functional toilet bike that's listed for $110 (price is firm).

Milan is home to some of the world's most innovative green buildings, and the Italian city will soon boast a few more. Stefano Boeri's amazing vertical forest towers, which feature balconies full of trees, are nearing completion. Also in Milan, Nemesi & Partners just unveiled plans to build an "Urban Forest" building that will generate its own electricity while purifying the air. And in Japan, architect Toyo Ito designed an alternative to Zaha Hadid's controversial Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, which would slash the current expected price tag in half. In wearable-technology news, designer Michiel Cornelissen recently created a set of 3D-printed sound rings that double as hand-held instruments. A pair of students from India created a $150 braille robot to help combat illiteracy among the visually impaired and provide an alternative to the expensive braille displays currently on the market. And for something that is guaranteed to warm your heart, we'd like to introduce you to Tippi Degré, the daughter of French wildlife photographers who grew up living among lion cubs, giraffes, ostriches and zebras in Africa.