Access to clean drinking water, sustainable energy sources and changes in the environment are some of the challenges faced by many around the world. Designers, from the Australia to Bangladesh, are responding with innovative design solutions.

The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies organizes a free online conference series on pressing environmental issues. This year the focus was water. As curator of socially responsible design, I joined with the museum’s education director, Caroline Payson, to discuss why Water Matters. Along with scientists, geographers and others from across the Smithsonian, we were part of Shout, an education initiative that invites students and educators to take an active role through online events, virtual classrooms and student challenges.

In Bangladesh, architect Mohammed Rezwan responded to constant flooding along the country’s rivers in the north, creating Floating Community Lifeboats. Working with local boat builders traditional boats were transformed into floating solar-powered schools and health clinics. In Australia, another designer uses a readily available untapped local resource, ocean waves. Lying on the ocean’s floor, the bioWAVE ocean-wave energy system mimics ocean plants and their constant movement caused by the surrounding water to generate renewable energy. Click here, Sink or Float: Water and Design Solutions, to learn more about these and other designs.

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