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Inhabitat's Week in Green: smog safety bubbles, the Tesla Gigafactory and transforming furniture


Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

Extreme weather is dominating the headlines yet again this winter. California is in the midst of a historic drought, which has many observers wondering if desalination is the answer to the state's water problems. This week, workers broke ground on what will soon be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere near San Diego. Man-made fixes like desalination plants aren't likely to solve the problems brought on by climate change, but they could help mitigate the effects. For example, a team of researchers found that offshore wind farms could reduce wind speeds, wave heights and storm surges resulting from hurricanes. A string of harsh winter storms has battered most of North America all winter, but here's one vehicle that can cut right through the snow: A Quebec man created a crazy battery-powered sled that can navigate the most treacherous terrain. And architects from the London-based firm Orproject have drafted plans for large inflatable bubbles that would give residents of Beijing a place to escape from the city's suffocating smog.

Tesla has been ruling the electric car world recently, and now the company has another feather to put in its cap: Consumer Reports just named the Tesla Model S the Best Overall Car. Tesla also announced plans to build a new large-scale "gigafactory" that could reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries by more than 30 percent. In other automotive news, Hyundai announced that it will begin leasing a fuel cell version of its Tucson crossover in the US next year. When the car becomes available, drivers in Southern California will be able to power it using processed sewage. In Spain, the Electric Mobility Company developed a solar-powered recharging station for its Xkuty One electric bike. And one of Inhabitat's editors tested out the ShareRoller, a new compact device that can transform any Citi Bike into an easy-to-ride electric bike. In Italy, a retired schoolteacher bought a used Ape motorbike and modified it to create a portable library that houses 700 books.

The tiny house trend has taken off in recent years, and now tiny homes are being used to help solve America's homeless problem. From Portland to Provo, people are building micro dwellings to give homeless people a place to sleep. Small-space living isn't just popular in the US -- in Tel Aviv, architects from Raanan Stern's studio designed a highly efficient 15-square-meter apartment that's filled with transforming furniture. On the island of Sandhornøya in northern Norway, Solardome Industries built a large geodesic dome that contains a three-level cob home. Architect Vincent Callebaut recently released renderings of a futuristic city district designed for Kunming, China that consists of 45 energy-positive villas set on a huge community orchard and food garden. And the Swiss Alpine Club recently redesigned a hut nestled in the heart of the Valais Alps that is completely powered by the sun.

In environmental news, scientists have confirmed that a piece of zircon found in Jack Hills, Australia is the oldest fragment of Earth ever found. Last week, Google Earth users were surprised to see a massive mysterious spiral in the Sahara Desert -- turns out it's an immense land art installation created by three artists near the Red Sea over two years. Google also unveiled Global Forest Watch, a new online tool that allows organizations to monitor deforestation around the world. Fitbit announced that it is voluntarily recalling its Force fitness-tracking bracelet after some users complained of rashes and burns on their wrists. And for tech-savvy moms and dads, Sleekbit has created a new Android app called Dormi that can turn smartphones into mobile baby monitors.

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