Clever Little Schemes

This blog, and likely some others to follow are also available at, a great little pressure group that shares many of my environmental concerns and interests!


The barriers to achieving environmental sustainability are often vast; high initial economic costs, the need to change stubborn policies and habits, and a lack of education within the resource using community.

Overwhelming amounts of data contests that long-term costs of being un-green far outweigh high initial start-up costs however this is not the reason for my blog today.

Whilst energy-saving solutions and campaigns (e.g. Earth Hour) are increasingly publicised in economically developed areas; less developed or resource deprived regions are often not given the attention they require.

Here I would like to highlight just a selection of sustainable, accessible and novel alternatives that are shown to reduce our environmental footprints and/or further provide enhanced resources in hospitable environments inhabited by many of the world’s disadvantaged communities.

1.) Zai Holes
The construction of Zai holes is a traditional farming technique that originated in West Africa and, since the 80’s, has been ‘re-greening’ swathes of Africa.
It’s a remarkably simple solution. Pits dug in barren land are filled with manure and crop saplings. As well as providing nutrients the manure attracts termites, which burrow through the filled pits producing tunnels through which water can flow to the plants roots.
Providing a localized, rich soil environment, this technique gives young plants the head start they needs to become established and as such, crop yields can increase 4-fold without any additional costs or external inputs, two of the largest barriers to environmental reform in impoverished regions.

2.) Bottle Bulbs
This scheme, I believe, first surfaced in 2011 in the Philippines in order to provide a sustainable, free alternative to electric lighting that was and is unaffordable for populations in many third world countries.
Requiring just a plastic bottle, water and some chlorine this scheme has so far provided hundreds of residence with a 55 watt bottle bulb that lights up their home without a single environmental or economic cost. Add to this the fact that scheme recycles waste plastic, and furthermore is producing new, green jobs, it is apparent that the scheme will continue to have a massive positive impact as it spreads across the Philippines and possibly worldwide.

3.) Fog Collection
Fog collection is a technique utilized throughout the animal and plant kingdom, in order to extract moisture from arid environments. Indeed, various human cultures are thought to have used fog as a water resource throughout history.
In recent years there has been renewed vigor to design efficient tools to extract fog water, one highly successful case study being ‘FogQuest’. This company designed a fine mesh net to capture fog and channel it into holding containers, a process that can capture up to 750 litres of fresh water a day!
That this system is passive (i.e. no energy input is required), does not manipulate the natural environment and is not particularly costly, means it is a highly accessible, potentially life saving solution to water shortage in a range of worldwide environments.

The above schemes are just a small sample from a range of ingenious solutions implemented in communities worldwide. I particularly like these solutions as they are so cheap and convenient, that they bypass many of the existing barriers to environmental reform.

For the first two schemes especially, the only real barrier that comes to mind is ignorance. Communities simply lack education as to how they can efficiently access and manage their resources. Provide it, and immediately the opportunity is there for them to improve their own quality of life without damaging their environment.

Inspirational schemes such as these are evidence that cost-effective solutions exist to many of the problems facing the developing world. To me this suggests that education and communication are probably our strongest tools in a campaign for environmental sustainability.

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