What if we could consciously choose vacations where we use our bodies as kinetic tools to give host communities power? This could be the future of a whole new kind of ecotourism. Instead of travelling to natural environments to support conservation efforts, the kinetic tourist could vacation in urban spaces using new technology to leave powerful footprints behind. Well the future is now! We’ll look at two tech companies leading the way in human powered energy that might have a solution for the energy-minded tourist.
Developed in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, an industrial design engineer, Pavegen is a flooring tile that creates energy from a single footstep. If we live till we’re 75, on average, we’ll take over 200 million steps. Imagine what power we could create in our lifetime if even half of our steps made contact with Kemball-Cook’s unique flooring tiles. When we step on the tiles using the kinetic energy from our footsteps, power is stored for future use, like powering streetlights. In his 2012 TedxRio+20 Ted Talk, Kemball-Cook said, “…our vision is to see this technology power our cities.” The kinetic tourist of the future won’t have a hard time planning a giving back power trip. Their technology has been installed in more than 100 projects in 30 countries around the world.
A trip to London would be the most obvious destination where the energy-minded tourist could leave behind the most power with their footsteps. The beauty of a kinetic vacation in London is that it starts from the time the tourist touches down at the airport. At Heathrow’s Terminal 3, Pavegen installed 51 tiles as part of the first Ferrovial Innovation Awards for an interactive light installation called Flow. Heathrow called Power Floor: Not a Step Wasted a “world-first interactive light exhibit” using the #walkandlight for passengers. For every step on the flooring tiles, energy is converted into electricity that in turn changes the colours of light on an electronic wall panel.
If the kinetic tourist has the means to travel much farther than the UK, they can head to Johannesburg, South Africa to participate in another Pavegen project. Partnering with Samsung, Pavegen installed 68 tiles at the entrance of the Standton City mall. This time the tourist can contribute to the over 2 million footsteps of those who frequent Standton every month. As an added bonus, the footsteps power an interactive data screen that tells shoppers how much energy is being generated in real time. The harvested power is then given to communities that need it in South Africa.
For kinetic tourists who love to hit the dance floor they can look to Energy Floors’ projects when planning their next trip. The company began as the Sustainable Dance Club, but prior to that, in 2006 CEO Michel Smit owned Off_Corso, a huge dance club in Rotterdam. There, the first sustainable dance night was held to explore ‘what’ a sustainable dance club could look like. With Smit as an advisor, that project was a joint venture with architecture firm Doll Lab and Enviu, an organization that looked for, and generated innovative sustainable business ideas and made them happen. After the success of that event, Smit realized it was possible to combine clubbing and sustainability into one business.
In 2008 Sustainable Dance Club was born with a mission to make clubs and festivals around the world more sustainable and by doing so encourage young people to live a less wasteful lifestyle. The first sustainable dance spot was Club WATT that same year in Rotterdam featuring the Sustainable Dance Floor™ (SDF). Working with Studio Roosegaarde, it featured an energy generating dance floor that lit up LED lights on the flooring from the kinetic energy created by dancers. By converting each dancer’s energy to 20 watts, the dance floor could power itself. Unfortunately, Club WATT closed its doors in 2010.
But by 2013, Sustainable Dance Club became Energy Floors and in 2014 they had established an international presence, taking their sustainable dance floors around the world. Two years ago, the kinetic tourist on vacation could have helped turn the iconic Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio green and give it a beating heart by dancing on a SDF in front of it. In Singapore, they could’ve danced on a SDF that was featured as part of World Wildlife Foundation’s (WWF) Earth Hour Singapore. As soon as lights went out for Earth Hour, it was time to dance and light up the night. In March 2015, Energy Floors partnered with WWF France and placed their sustainable dance floor in front of the Eiffel tower for Earth Hour Paris. When the lights went out at 8:30pm the public was invited to dance on the floor; generating enough power to light up the Eiffel tower.
Because the tech around harvesting energy from our bodies is a growing trend, the kinetic tourist of the future might also be able to reduce their carbon footprint. They won’t need to get on a plane to give power back to communities because there will likely be a kinetic energy project in their own backyard.
Glace Lawrence is a social and digital content producer committed to being a kinetic tourist in her hometown of Toronto, Canada.
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