TIME green living

Tracking Carbon Footprints and Saving Money: The Pecan Street Project

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Walk around the Austin Mueller neighborhood in Texas’s capital city and you’ll see a modern planned, green community with homes that sport solar panels and garages that shelter electric cars. But the most important innovation in these homes can’t be seen by the casual observer. It is the smart circuitry that allows residents to track their homes’ electrical use appliance by appliance, in real time, showing clearly how they consume power and enabling them to reduce their power bills and minimize waste.

“You can literally see when a lightbulb is turned on,” says homeowner Dan McAtee. “It’s been educational.” He’s learned, for instance, to lower his monthly utility bill by using his most power-hungry appliances at night, when electricity costs less. And he knows just how much power is generated by the solar panels on his roof — far more than his family consumes, as it turns out, allowing them to send the surplus back into the grid.

McAtee’s home is one of more than a thousand participating in the Pecan Street Project, the most extensive smart grid in the United States. Since 2009, the project has provided homeowners incentives for installing renewable energy and buying plug-in electric vehicles, while also helping them reduce their carbon footprints.

Across the country, use of two-way “smart meters” has been growing, with more than 40 million already in use. Pecan Street meters are far more precise, however and provide both residents and their municipal utility, Austin Energy, with enormous amounts of constantly updated, detailed and actionable data that benefits both individuals and the community. When replicated in other cities, the system may help solve pressing environmental and infrastructure challenges affecting the entire country by making us smarter about how changing individual behavior can benefit society as a whole.

TIME 2014 World Cup

When Underdogs Made World Cup History

Never underestimate the possibility of the impossible

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With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway in Brazil, fans worldwide are cheering on their favorite teams, regardless of how likely it is that they will advance to the closing stages. Of the 76 countries that have participated in FIFA’s big event since the first one in 1930, only eight have managed to claim the title of champion. And only two of those were big surprises: Uruguay in 1950 and Italy in 1982.

But as any fan can tell you, the World Cup is about much more than who takes the trophy at the end. This year, several teams that qualified are considered long shots, among them the U.S.

The possibility that an underdog might defy the odds and advance further than expected underlies each World Cup match. Who knows what will happen?

Take a look at a few of World Cup history’s most memorable upsets — games no one could anticipate ending as they did, but ones everyone should remember.

 

TIME 2014 World Cup

World Cup 2014: Hello Long Shots!

Hey, not everyone can be a winner

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The teams, the fans and the press are descending on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and almost everyone is aware that host country Brazil is a big favorite, as are Spain, Portugal and Germany. Even a turtle can tell you that.

But even with 32 teams contending for the big prize, anything can happen, right? And the one thing a true fan loves more than a guaranteed champion is an underdog.

So take a closer look at some of this Cup’s “least likely to succeed,” because if fate smiles on one of them, World Cup history could be made.

TIME housing

Tiny Houses With Big Ambitions

Is the tiny-houses movement a viable solution for American homeowners?

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Anyone who’s been to the suburbs in the past half-century knows that American homes have been getting larger and more elaborate year after year. The average size of new homes has swelled by 50 percent since 1970, despite that the average family size decreased during the same period. And it’s not just here; similar trends have held sway in other prosperous, mostly Western countries.

As with most things, a countertrend, focused on homes that are smaller and simpler than the norm, emerged in recent decades. Sometimes referred to as the “tiny house movement,” the concept describes efforts by architects, activists and frugal home owners to craft beautiful, highly functional houses of 1,000 square feet or less (some as small as 80 square feet). It’s both a practical response to soaring housing costs and shrinking incomes, and an idealistic expression of good design and sensible resource use.

The most ardent advocates and early adopters of the concept were often looking to downsize and simplify their lives, create an affordable second home or find innovative ways to live outside the mainstream. Some small homes are on wheels and therefore resemble RVs, but they are built to last as long as traditional homes. Others represent clever architectural solutions to odd building lots or special design challenges. Aging baby-boomers see them as an efficient way to adapt to their changing needs. Most tiny houses are tailored for middle-class and wealthy families who made a conscious decision to “build better, not bigger.”

But natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and economic catastrophes like the Great Recession inspired many people to wonder if the movement might offer solutions to pressing housing crises, whether temporary or long-term. Cheaper to build and maintain, built mostly of ecologically friendly materials, requiring no building permits and taking up far less real estate than traditional houses, the appeal of “living small” is obvious to many people. Some imagine entire villages built of tiny homes as solutions to homelessness.

The movement itself remains small, however promising. Only about one percent of home buyers today go for houses of 1,000 square feet or less. That may be changing as more people become familiar with the ideas that animate the movement and as middle-class finances remain precarious.

Watch the video above and make up your own mind: Would you opt to live small if you could?

TIME 3-D printing

Watch: Historic Coney Island Recreated Using a 3-D Printer

Scale model details the fantastic Luna Park from a century past

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“More remains of ancient Rome than of turn-of-the-century Coney Island,” says Brooklyn artist Fred Kahl, explaining why he chose to create a detailed scale model of an amusement park from 100 years ago. “This is … about a deep love of Coney Island as the cultural melting pot and showcase for presenting cutting-edge technology as entertainment.”

The result of his passion is the world’s largest-ever 3-D printed art installation. It fills an entire gallery at the Coney Island Museum, which reopens Memorial Day Weekend after being shuttered since October 2012 to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Kahl began working with 3-D printing a few years ago. He created his own open-source hardware for making full-body scans using an Xbox Kinect game controller to capture 3-D images of his subjects. He raised over $16,000 via Kickstarter to get the Coney Island project started in 2013; a year later, he has assembled hundreds of 3-D prints and produced over an estimated 10,000 hours of print time for the installation dubbed, “Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park: 3-D Printed by the Great Fredini.”

The video above was produced by filmmaker Ronni Thomas, creator of The Midnight Archive web-video series. He says he was drawn to make “Printing History,” as a fellow artist and borough-mate of Kahl’s: “As a born and raised Brooklynite,” Thomas says, “Coney Island has long been a beacon for the peculiar and the other-wordly obsessions i’ve held since my very first childhood memories.”

TIME bicycles

Mountain Biking’s Beginnings: Fat Tires, Broken Hubs and the Grateful Dead

Mountain biking took root in the fertile counterculture of the 1970s

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Long before there were gutter bunnies, baby heads or WOMBATS, there were cyclists eager to push the limits of what their equipment and bodies could take.

It began with a group of sporty iconoclasts, wheeling down the hills of northern California, creating a rough-and-tumble style of biking to match their unconventional personalities. They made it up as they went along, modifying their bikes to manage the terrain and enjoying themselves in all the ways that adventurous youth did in that era.

Watch UC Fig. 1‘s video about the early days of mountain biking. Narrated by UC San Diego’s Sarah McCullough, who wrote her PhD thesis on the topic, it tells the history of the sport, the “renegades (including the women) who started it, remade the bikes and helped create a new leisure industry. And it wasn’t just about bikes and terrain in those days, ideas and music played an important part, including a benefit performance by the band that personified the counter-culture.

“[P]eople were creating the kind of world they wanted to live in,” McCullough says. “A world with trails that created a flow through the mountains, paths they could follow fast, without braking.”

If you want to learn more, check out work from off-road pioneers like William Savage (Klunkerz), and Charlie Kelly (Fat Tire Flyer, due out later this year).

TIME Late Night Television

Stephen Colbert: A Video Primer

Can you tell where the character ends and the real Colbert begins?

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Long before he was tapped to replace David Letterman on CBS’s “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert was making his mark on late night television. From his “reporting” on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” to his own “The Colbert Report,” to black-tie events, rallies and animated movies, the one time actor and comedy writer who pronounces his surname with a silent “t” has become synonymous with no-holds-barred, politically-charged satire, at all hours of the day.

ICYMI, here’s a handy compilation of some of Colbert’s most memorable TV moments from the past 12 years.

 

 

 

TIME TIME 100

Ai-jen Poo: Organizing for Transformation

A child of immigrants creates social change from the bottom up

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Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Ai-jen Poo first found her calling toward social justice in the mid-1990s, when she was a student at Columbia University. As organizer of the Women Workers Project at CAAAV in New York City, she was incensed to see how domestic workers–often immigrants and women of color–toiled long hours for low pay as maids, nannies and elderly caregivers.

Over the next 17 years, her efforts to understand and organize domestic workers in New York helped earn her the trust of thousands of women who had been too often treated like they were expendable, even though they were responsible for raising children, caring for the ill and aged and charged with making the daily lives of millions of families easier.

The Domestic Workers United Poo co-founded in 2000 galvanized a city-wide, multiracial coalition of of workers and eventually led New York State to pass the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. That legislation extended basic labor protections to more than 200,000 domestic workers in the state and, as a consequence, helped prompt California, Hawaii and the U.S. Government to follow suit.

In 2012, TIME honored Ai-jen as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Journalist and feminist icon Gloria Steinem praised her at the time as a “gifted” and “empathic” leader who was making history by “showing the humanity of a long devalued kind of work.”

TIME social good

Watch: How Haute Couture Can Use the Marketplace for Social Good

Combining a social agenda with good business produces beautiful results

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What happens when a social activist and a fashion-industry executive put their heads together in order to create social good? Maiyet, a New York-based luxury fashion brand working with local artisans in the developing world, aims to find out.

Co-founder Paul van Zyl, who came of age during the fight against apartheid in South Africa, believes the firm’s mission is to make sure that “people at the bottom of the pyramid can lead dignified lives.”

His business partner, Kristy Caylor, a career fashion executive, is troubled by the fact that consumers can buy a “one dollar t-shirt that was made half way across the globe and assume that people’s human rights have been respected and that people are being paid properly.”

Rather than rail against injustice, however, the pair set out to change the conversation among the people at the top of the industry by finding people with world-class skills in local markets without access to design direction or infrastructure and work with them to build a brand that give expression to their “raw talent” while at the same time succeeds commercially.

Judging from the response they got at Paris Fashion Week last month, they are off to a good start.

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