I recently had an opportunity to speak at Green Nation Fest, an environmentally focused conference and expo held in Rio de Janeiro from May 31 to June 7, 2012. Preceding the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development by two weeks, Green Nation Fest set the stage for environmental discussions on a variety of topics including forestry, food, product design, and architecture. While at the conference, I had the opportunity to hear other speakers share stories about innovative design and material approaches. Highlights include Heloisa Crocco, a Brazilian artist who creates uncanny objects and textured surfaces with wood; Elizabeth Olsen, designer of so-called “vegan” shoes made from postindustrial waste in place of leather; Yuichi Tokita, a Sony engineer who has developed a battery that runs on sugar; and Anke Domaske, the founder of Qmilch, a manufacturer that creates textiles entirely from milk.
In addition to the panel sessions, Green Nation Fest attracted a large crowd to its environmental pavilions, which allowed visitors to experience virtual flooding, forest fires, and the thawing of the polar ice caps—a strange if effective way to introduce environmental concerns in a theme-park format.