In pictures: 10 inspiring ideas for greener ways of living

From experimental technology to simple practices, people around the world are thinking creatively about how we can live better with nature. Here are some of the clever things they’ve come up with.

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How can we live in harmony with nature? We know that how we’re living now is harming our planet. And that collective change is essential for its future. But with so much to do and bad news nearly everyday, it’s easy for our hope to dash away.

World Environment Day’s #OnlyOneEarth theme highlights how we can live in harmony with nature and transform towards greener lives. Whether using new technologies in the city or adopting sustainable farming practices, people globally are coming up with creative solutions to make the world a better place.

We picked out a few that remind us a greener future is possible. Many of these ideas are still at the experimental stage, and some will be more valuable as conversation-starters than large-scale solutions. But they’re all great reminders of what’s possible when we’re willing to get creative and reimagine the world around us. Because all we need to restore our hope is a jump into our imagination.

Glow in the dark cycle path

In Lidzbark Warmiński in northern Poland, cycling has become a bit safer. This experimental cycle path absorbs sunlight to light up in darkness, making the path safer for cyclists at night. It’s made of blue luminophores, which are small crystal-like particles that can take in energy from the sun then slowly release it as light. It looks similar to a glow-in-the-dark sticker that you can put up on a ceiling. The path is currently being tested for wear and tear.

Blue particles sparkle light as the sun sets in the distance

Path created by TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o. in Lidzbark Warmiński in northern Poland © Strabag

A cycle path and pedestrian path glow blue as the sun sets.

Cycle path and pedestrian path glow blue at dusk © Strabag

Footfall harvesting

Pedestrians in Washington DC are doing more than just walking. At the Connecticut Avenue Overlook pocket park, they power outdoor street lights. As they walk, special tiles harness the energy generated by their footsteps. The project is a collaboration between the clean-tech British company Pavegen and the D.C. government.

People walk on a pavement made from triangular tiles.

People walking on energy-generating tiles in Washington DC. © Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Algae-powered building

Hamburg houses the first algae-powered building in the world. At the BIQ (Bio Intelligent Quotient) House, the panels in the front are filled with growing algae. The plants are able to generate renewable energy, heat water and help shade the building.

An apartment building with algae-filled panels that look like misted windows.

In the facade of this green building, growing algae produce energy. © Manfred Rutz / Getty Images

Supertrees in Singapore

Called Supertrees, these tree-like structures behave as vertical gardens. Designed by Grant Associates, They generate solar power, act as exhaust air towers for nearby conservatories and collect rainwater in Singapore.

Tree-like structures in the middle of Singapore. They have thick trunks and wiry branches, and a walkway between them.

A majestic view of the Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. © Edward Tian / Getty Images

Electric rickshaw and solar station

In Tláhuac in Mexico City, Greenpeace Mexico collaborated with Mexican engineers to present an electric pedicab prototype. The batteries of the pedicabs are recharged at a solar station, delivering a zero emissions solution for the local population.

Person using a pedicab: a tricycle and seating carriage

A person rides an electric pedicab in Mexico City. © Pepe Rodríguez / Greenpeace

Wind turbine trees

“Wind trees”, micro wind turbines that can work in a city, are a renewable energy innovation. They’re built in the shape of a tree and each of its 72 “leaves” acts as a mini wind-turbine to generate electricity. The trunk and branches are made of steel and the leaves work at speeds as low as 4.5 miles per hour. Although they don’t generate as much power as full-size wind turbines, they’re an eye-catching reminder of the clean energy that’s all around us, just waiting to be harnessed. These wind trees are photographed at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris during COP21.

White tree structures, with yellow and green ‘leaves’ which look like upturned plastic bottles with holes to capture wind.

“Wind trees” displayed at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris during COP21. © Loic Venance / AFP via Getty Images

Vertical forest

The “Bosco Verticale” (Vertical Forest), is a pair of residential towers designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri and located in the Porta Nuova district. It is aimed at creating a welcoming habitat for humans and wildlife alike.

Apartment block covered with trees and bushes

Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) towers in Milan, Italy. © Emanuele Cremaschi / Getty Images

Urban farming

Urban farming is allows the people of Jakarta to grow crops with limited green land available. It gives people space to connect with nature, their local community and grow things in a place they can easily access.

Person tending to their vegetable garden, with a city skyline in the background.

Abdulrahman (60 years) is caring for plants on his roof in Jakarta, Indonesia. © Sijori Images/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Bee bus stops

This solar-powered bus shelter – also known as a ‘Bee Bus Stop’ – has a roof planted with a mix of wildflowers and sedum plants. These plants are rich in nectar and a favourite of bees and other pollinating insects. They’re installed in many cities across the UK.

Bus stop with a green roof and solar panels built in

Brighton’s solar-powered “bee bus stop” has a green roof for pollinators. © Clear Channel

Sustainable Fishing in Thailand

In Khan Kradai Bay in Thailand, the local community agreed to keep a sustainable fishery. To do this, they choose fishing equipment and methods for the type of fish they want to catch. They also set up fish houses to create nurseries for marine animals and won’t fish during breeding season.

Two people knee-deep in water in the middle of a net of fish.

Local fishers are catching fish in Khan Kradai Bay. © Chanklang Kanthong / Greenpeace

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