The Hand Tree

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I like gadgets as much as the next person, and I certainly understand the appeal of turning to nifty electronics for green objectives. Not only do some of the gadgets look cool and do cool things, they also monetize green goals by making products that can help drive employment and the economy. All good things. Okay, so they also use resources and generate waste, but maybe there are work-arounds for those drawbacks.

The hand tree, for example, is a cool device on the drawing board that would act as a personal air purifier as well as a technological fashion statement.

The Hand Tree, a battery-powered purifier made from recyclable materials. Design: Alexandr Kostin/Electrolux Design Lab

The Hand Tree, a battery-powered purifier made from recyclable materials.
Design: Alexandr Kostin/Electrolux Design Lab

Conceived by students at the Electrolux Design Lab, the hand tree is a largish bangle (or other accessory form, such as a pendant or belt buckle) that filters air.

“Combining millions of personal air purifiers we can achieve the image of living in a forest,” says the web page for the project. “If every inhabitant in a big city would wear such a device, we would be all to breathe easily in smoggy air.”

Okay, this is where the cool factor rapidly diminishes for me. This is the kind of production-oriented, consumer-centered ‘solution’ that is fully in keeping with the mentality that got us into cities full of smoggy air in the first place. And that’s not the fault of the young designer who came up with this neat idea; this is how we think.

Forest pool Artist: Aristide Maillol via Davidson Galleries

Forest pool
Artist: Aristide Maillol via Davidson Galleries

It’s no surprise that these creative futuristic designs for environmental gadgets are part of a 2013 competition sponsored by an appliance company.

Maybe I’m biased because I spend a lot of my time around actual trees, but my thought is this: How about we just plant more trees, and stop cutting down the ones we’ve already got?

They do a remarkably efficient job of purifying air with almost no production cost, when they reach the end of their life span they leave behind useful biomass, they maintain ecosystems and water tables, hold soil in place and provide a natural cooling system.

Practically the only thing they don’t do, unless they are being used for timber or packaging, is generate a profit.

And that might be their biggest weakness.

Civilization Tree Artist: Robobenito

Civilization Tree
Artist: Robobenito

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