The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

12 July 2007

Pedalling for a purpose

Pedal power can be used to get you around; but it could also be used to generate electricity. Hasn’t the thought occurred to you as you wanted past a fitness centre that all that effort in travelling nowhere on a bicycle exercise machine could be put to some good use – perhaps to light up the building or to feed into the grid. Or perhaps bicycle power could be used to recharge mobile phones or even run a cinema… which is precisely what a number of eco-pioneers are trying to do.

But pedal power energy is not new. It has been in use since the nineteenth century. Aside from transportation, pedal-power can be applied for a very wide range of jobs which will then contribute to less pollution and conserving energy. Pedal power is good for you. It uses the most powerful muscles in the body: the quads, hamstrings, and calves, and converts 95% of exertion into energy.

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema
“Four of us meet in the barn to take a look at the small amount of kit that we’ve already got. A newly purchased hybrid road bike with a slick back tyre gets jacked up. We try out a motor with a skate board wheel barely attached. A radio becomes the first test. Before long, Lucy is putting enough leg work in to power it. We have sound. After a couple of months of hard graft, finally the time was upon us… our debut at The Big Chill 2007 festival as part of their Arts Trail – three consecutive five-hour nights of screenings.”

A group of people in Cambridge have built a touring cycle-powered cinema, which they have called The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema. Using serious volunteer numbers (with six or more cyclists side by side providing the energy) and hours of dedicated pedalling (with no shortage of volunteers) to keep the film rolling, the Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema plans to take films to festivals and even to those parts of the country that the cinema doesn’t reach.

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema is the only bicycle-powered cinema in the UK. It unites art, education and sustainability by:
• Screening DIY films, independents and small productions.
• Demonstrating how to generate power locally and independently of fossil fuels.
• Engaging the audience in idea of sustainability.
“Throw in top hats, 50’s usherettes and a touch of the circus weird… and you’ve arrived at The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema!”

They are building a collection of short and feature-length films about issues such as climate change, DIY culture, bike culture, sustainability, the green-revolution… alongside home-grown art films and other delights. They are also hoping to encourage people to produce their own DIY films about issues which are important to their communities. If you have or know of films suitable for the Cycling Cinema to screen, get in touch.

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema:

Using no physical exertion, there is another way of generating power for movie entertainment,… by using solar panels. This is what Solar Cinema, which describes itself as “the groovy movie picture house” does.

Recharging cellphones
Global inheritance (GI) created a display called "The Energy Factory" fpr the 2007 Coachella Music and Arts Festival in California, which aimed to get young concert-goers interested in alternative forms of energy. There were demonstrations of wind power, solar power, bio-diesel, ethanol power, a converted electric car,… and even a human powered cellphone charging area.

They set up 24 bicycle powered generators at the 2007 Coachella Music Festival. A similar design could also be used for human powered television, human powered Playstations, and even a human-powered blender or laptop computer. Just think of the idea of TV-addicted or couch potato kids generate their own power to watch TV or play video games all day – they would end up in great shape!

What you can do
Aside from, volunteering to be one of a team of pedallers at a festival, you could design and make your own pedal-power machine to turn your efforts into electricity. Find out about this and much more on pedal power at:

You can also donate equipment to The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema. See their wish list on their website at:

Check out the Bicycle Film Festival:

09 July 2007

The Mighty Light

Can you imagine a world without light? This was commonplace in bygone centuries; and it was to satisfy the demand form tallow to burn as candles that the whaling industry developed (see our last post).

But today, lighting is an essential for getting the most from our lives. In the developed world, any lack of light, due to a power outage or being cut off for non-payment, is normally felt as a temporary frustration. However, there are 1.6 billion less fortunate people who do not have access to a reliable electricity supply; for them a dimly lit world is a dark and permanent reality.

Cosmos Ignite was the brainchild of Matt Scott who was doing a postgraduate course at Stanford. He wanted to bring light to some of those 1.6 billion people, and he wanted to invest in providing a service to those at the “base of the pyramid”.

He set uo Cosmos Ignite Innovations to develop a super-bright LED solar powered light - which he calls the Mightylight, as a cost effective alternative to expensive-to-run, dangerous, polluting and harmful kerosene lamps.

Take a look at the Mightylight. It costs only $50. Why not buy one to use as your own torch? Or why donate one to a school or village library in Africa or India.

The Impact
For every lights, analysis predicts:
  • There will be $32 in life-time cost savings over kerosene
  • The user will benefit from $18 in additional income generation
  • It will provide 200 hours of extra education for a rural villager
  • There will be a 2% reduction in incidents involving serious burns. It will save lives. There will also be a significant reduction in respiratory illness and accidental fires.
  • There will be a saving of 30 tons in CO2 emissions
The Fortune at the Base of the Pyramid
Read about this thought provoking idea of delivering services to the very poor for profit, but changing their lives at the same time. The book is authored by C.K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart, and can be freely downloaded from