The benches are equipped with a built-in solar panels so that people can charge…or recharge their electronic devices while theist comfortably on a bench. Soofa, a startup company that spun out of the world-renowned MIT Media lab in Boston, MA, makes them. The bench installation is an effort by the South Orange Environmental Commission as part of the Sustainable Jersey Small Grant Program funded by Walmart…or Walmart’s as my mom would say.
The benches are BYOC (Bring your Own Cord). They only provide the energy and the USB ports for plugging in. Funny antidote, if you can’t figure out how to use the bench correctly…it might mean you are just old ;) apparently, some people need instructs while other seem to intuitively know what to do to get a free charge. And usually the demographic difference is age.
Soofa is a very forward thinking company in the renewable energy space. It was founded by three women, Nan Zhao, Jutta Friedrichs and Sandra Richter. Since the company's launch, benches have been installed all over the US and several other countries. The benches add to the intelligence of our daily lives while helping in a small way to fight climate change. In fact, Richter has said that “Soofa is the first step into smart urban furniture. The possibilities to update the city for the mobile generation are endless and long overdue. We’re also overdue to see more female-led startups, which is why we hope to be a role model for women all over the world who want to found cool companies.”
For anyone not familiar with Sustainable Jersey, it is a state wide voluntary program that helps municipalities undertake real action for a more sustainable future. Where many people are aware of things like climate change, sustainability and green buildings, Sustainable Jersey is offering a way to take real action toward solutions. South Orange has already done a long list of green actions throughout the town from creating electric car charging stations, starting River Day and establishing an Environmental Commission, but these more public sustainable actions like the solar bench demystify how we can all do a little more for a better planet. Plus, they are super cool!
I personally love things like this. When I work with people to create sustainable landscapes for their homes, it really makes all the talk about a more-environmentally-sound-world more real. It's when you can see and touch something that really puts power behind good ideas. Whether it’s native plants or chemical-free lawns or super cool public benches, the message is that we can all do things that are easy and makes our daily life better.
In fact, I want to offer a 5% discount on our custom blend (and very sustainable) grass seed or our bagged organic mushroom compact soil for anyone that takes a picture of themselves and/or of their family sitting on the bench and posts it to facebook and/or instagram. (Limit to one discount per household) Tag me and I’ll send you a coupon for the discount.