One day early last year I came across a brilliant, innovative way of heating water for showers in an offgrid ecolodge in South Africa.
It was cheap, lo-tech, easily replicable, and it worked. But, after visiting 25 more countries across Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, I never saw anything like it again.
Elsewhere, I had similar experiences, where people had clearly worked hard, expending time and money to develop a locally appropriate solution, and then got on with the million other things they had to do.
It got me thinking - there needed to be a way of sharing these countless stories of environmentally friendly and simple solutions and innovations, whether they are reports from permaculture schemes for greening the Dead Sea's desert, tips on how to get started in beekeeping, or the tale of a 14 year old Malawian boy who built his own wind turbine.
We're constantly being presented with the problems in the media. What about spending some time focussing on solutions we all could implement?
And so, bit by bit over the last few months I've been creating a new website, Ivili.org (it's a Xhosa word 'i vili', meaning the wheel). The plan is for an evergrowing database of these video clips (like on youtube) profiling success stories from all over the world. Today there are over 100, making it already the most extensive video archive dedicated to sustainable innovations around.
And by focussing primarily on video (although there are blogs too), it surmounts the language barrier that limits sites focussing on text, as even if someone can't understand what is being said, they can pick up a great deals from the images.
These videos can be easily searched by anyone looking to solve a problem in their walk of life, and once they have seen the many suitable options, contact the projects and developers, or customise and adapt what they've seen for themselves.
And as it grows into a global social network, there will be access to minds and experiences from all over the planet, so people can join groups focussing on their issues, or pose questions to the group for help solving.
This ability to gather people around shared interests and aptitudes is the remarkable strength of social networks. Trouble is, most of the networks are used to waste time, not save it.
Already on Ivili.org anyone with a simple video camera, or even a video camera on their phone, can upload short clips of projects they unearth or are involved in. I aim to develop the site to be viewable through a mobile phone too, making it potentially easier for people in remote rural areas to access relevant videos without needing access to a computer / the internet.
In much of Africa, for example, mobile phone coverage is spreading rapidly and relatively cheaply. Internet and TV take up is far slower, mainly due to the cost of equipment and laying cables to remote and sparsely populated areas.
And finally, the site will always be totally free. It will never become the arm of corporation looking to greenwash its image, and it will never take any advertising. I have seen enough evidence round the world to know that people want to co-operate for a common good.
So, if you think you'd like to get involved in anyway, whether you've some films you'd like to upload, are an entrepreneur or project runner looking to feature your initiatives, or if you would simply like to learn new skills in a world of dwindling oil supplies and ever-increasing environmental problems, then I hope you'll come to ivili and have a look around.
Jeremy Smith is former editor of the Ecologist and the author (with Richard Hammond) of Clean Breaks - 500 New Ways to see the world (Rough Guides) Follow him on twitter at @jmcsmith