Mobile micro homes, table lamps from waste, or algae-based water bottles. Some students change the world with their weird and wonderful inventions. And serve as an inspiration for anyone willing to try something new. Enjoy these five shining examples.

Sustainer Homes: sustainable living for future generations

Construction accounts for a third of all global CO emissions. Now, a bunch of young designers, architects, and engineers from the Netherlands have decided to tackle this issue. As the name suggests, their Sustainer Homes start-up offers sustainable, mobile, and affordable modular houses. A welcome and necessary approach in times of growing cities and dwindling resources.

 Design of the Sustainer Homes micro house
Idyllic and sustainable: a micro house by Sustainer Homes.
Photo: Sustainer Homes
Interior of a micro house by Sustainer Homes
Minimalist to the core: everything you need in a compact interior.
Photo: Sustainer Homes

SproutsIO: micro farming at home

During her studies, Jennifer Broutin Farah was already tinkering with her first indoor gardening system. Straight after graduating from the MIT Media Lab, she started SproutsIO, a company that makes stylish micro gardens for your home. Getting the balance between green-fingered hobby and digital tech just right, SproutsIO offers the perfect set-up for those who want to grow their own.

Two people using SproutsIO gardening systems in the kitchen
Already a favorite in restaurant kitchens: SproutsIO gardening systems.
Photo: SproutsIO

All SproutsIO planters come equipped with sensors to monitor ambient temperature, humidity, and the plant’s overall health. For added convenience, the electronic sprinkler system and highly-efficient LED lighting can be controlled via smartphone. Missing your well-tended flora? Feel free to check in on your plant‘s thriving growth via the built-in camera – even when you’re on vacation.

 A SproutsIO planter with herbs
A smartphone app controls growth factors like light and moisture.
Photo: SproutsIO

Soofa: reinventing public space

Two other MIT students, Jutta Friedrichs and Sandra Richter from the German town of Freiburg, also launched their start-up in Boston. With Soofa, they want to reshape the urban environment to match our increasingly mobile lifestyles. The company’s first product is “the world’s most social bench,” the Soofa Bench.

This clever piece of urban furniture incorporates a solar panel, Wi-Fi, USB jacks, and environmental sensors. It’s the ideal spot for a quick break from the city’s hustle and bustle – take a seat, top up your smartphone, and get to know your neighbor. The successful product and idea has already spread far beyond Boston: To date, Soofa Benches invite urbanites to dawdle in more than 100 cities across the globe.

A woman charges her phone on a Soofa Bench
Soofa Bench: Wi-Fi and lounging – designed for the city.
Photo: Soofa

Agari: algal bottle tackles our global waste problem

Is there a way to replace the ubiquitous plastic products in our everyday lives with something else? According to Ari Jóns, the answer is a resounding yes. Or: Agari, a clever water bottle made of nothing but powdered algae and water.

After the last refreshing sip, the bottle simply dries out and collapses like a pierced balloon. All that’s left is a small lump of algae – and anyone with adventurous taste buds can snack on the nutritious residue. Right now, the Icelandic design student’s invention is still more of a prototype than a finished product, but it could easily pave the way for a new generation of environmentally friendly packaging.

The Agari compostable water bottle
This algae-based water bottle composts itself.
Photo: Ari Jóns

Quercus: waste not, want not – the ultimate lamp design

A stylish table lamp, constructed entirely from waste. Max Ashford created and perfected this thoughtful design object during his studies at Falmouth University, UK. The intriguingly named Quercus (Latin for oak) lamp is meant to highlight the benefits of imbuing waste products and leftovers with new beauty and value.

Quercus table lamp
A stylish table lamp – made from 100% waste.
Photo: Greeb

Quercus is made of sustainable materials, fully recyclable, and a clear step towards a true circular economy – a production cycle where all materials are fully used and reused. Wood for the lamp is sourced from naturally fallen oaks, while the lampshade used to be a wine bottle. Building on these waste-conscious insights with his new design studio Greeb, Max now explores a broader range of sustainable products and innovations.