Is coffee the new sustainable clean energy?

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), innovators are bypassing fossil fuels with inventions that may consign conventional power sources to the scrapheap

April 2018

Coffee-Powered Bus

In the U.K., folks drink 55 million cups of coffee each day. Start-up bio-bean recently partnered with Shell and Argent Energy to power London’s iconic double-decker buses with oils extracted from the grounds and converted into biodiesel. “Reimagining waste as an untapped resource is what we do,” says bio-bean commercial director George May. “We encourage people to see waste differently and find value in it.”


Sweat-Powered Radio

A new biofuel cell that runs on human perspiration is looking to make batteries a thing of the past. Last year, University of California, San Diego engineers unveiled technology capable of using lactate from human sweat to power a radio for two days. “We will probably see this technology on the market in two or three years,” says UC professor Joseph Wang, who worked on the project and predicts it will power watches, LEDs, radios and other wearable devices.


Algae-Powered Motorcycle

For the past few years, Dutch scientist Peter Mooij has worked to power a wooden motorbike on the green gunk that clogs people’s pool filters. The idea has worked well so far, but Mooij doesn’t think we should ditch our gas guzzlers yet. “This should be seen as a piece of art rather than a means of transport,” he says, but hints that they are considering building a “small series of roadworthy wooden motorcycles in the near future.”


This is what you do with the leftovers

A look at restaurants that put a new spin on “waste not, want not”



Brighton, England

This environmentally obsessed U.K. restaurant has set the bar for sustainability. They mill their own flour, churn their own butter, have plates formed from plastic bags and compost all food waste. As Silo chef and owner Douglas McMaster says, “We have less than 1 percent material waste.”


The Kitchen


This restaurant not only recycles its cooking oil and composts its scraps, it also serves draft wine to reduce bottle usage. To preserve surplus veggies, they freeze, pickle, can and cure where possible. “It’s really not that hard to be zero waste,” says co-owner Kimbal Musk (Elon’s brother). “It just takes an honest commitment to actually do it.”


Graffiti Earth

New York 

This restaurant embraces “ugly produce” that would otherwise be tossed, while food is served on hand-me-down dishes set on newspaper placemats alongside recycled napkins. “It’s important to respect where you live,” says chef-owner Jehangir Mehta. “It should be a part of society.”




While many of this restaurant’s Asian-inspired dishes are prepared over a wood-fired grill, the team offsets the impact by making donations to plant trees in sub-Saharan Africa. They’ve also just added a “root-to-stem” cocktail program that upcycles citrus by capturing remaining juices from already squeezed peels.


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