Inventive Environmentalism

“Going green,” or becoming ecologically conscious, has gained popularity in the past few years and the Tampa Museum of Art (TMA) has wasted no time in becoming part of this effort.

Artists, designers, architects and developers interested in making a positive difference in their lives and communities were invited in late March to submit design schemes, art works or commercial products that provide solutions for people who want to live with less impact on the environment.

The result was It’s Not Easy Being Green, which is showing at the TMA’s interim location.

The exhibit, which runs until Sept. 28, showcases conceptual drawings and sketches as well as actual artwork and design products that offer community members information on how to live sustainably. It is divided into three components: urban design issues in a growing population, environmentally friendly products and fine art by artists who address the issues of sustainability, activism and the environment.

Artist Logan Mahaffey’s display proposes a museum model that focuses on revitalizing the Hillsborough River’s edge and connecting it back to the Tampa community. While it has some of the features of a normal museum, the building has a vegetated roof that battles the urban heat island effect ­(urban and suburban temperatures that are 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than nearby rural areas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency) and passive cooling that reduces the reliance on energy-draining HVAC systems.

A video in the center of the exhibition shows teenagers from the Youth ALIVE! program constructing a sustainable building made from cob — a mixture of sand, straw and clay — at Kid City, the Children’s Museum of Tampa.Program members were able to come together to build the eco-friendly structure while simultaneously learning about alternative construction materials and methods.

On one side of the exhibition stands a Vietnamese bamboo bowl. According to the exhibit, bamboo is an ideal green product because it provides an alternative to harvesting slow-growing hardwood forests for wood products. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on the planet, and bamboo forests produce 30 percent more oxygen than hardwood forests.

Also, rubber has become a useful recyclable material and can be used in unconventional ways. A waste bag by Vulcana — made from automobile tires salvaged from Florida landfills — is useful for pet owners, and a bicycle tire’s inner tube takes on another life as a business card holder by Alchemy Goods.

Another useful invention is the staple-free stapler shaped like a dog and a cat, that eliminates the need for metal staples by using paper to bind paper. It cuts out tiny strips of paper and uses those strips to stitch up to five pieces of paper together.

Kim Johnson’s “Between Dystopia and Utopia” may be a bit of an eye-opener for Floridians, as this piece shows the anticipated changes in Florida’s landmass as a result of rising sea levels over the next 100 years expected to be caused by global warming. Florida’s original topography is barely discernable without squinting, since what is left of the Sunshine State looks like an inkblot test gone wrong.

“Gardens in Roam” is an interactive art project that allows people to adopt a fruit or vegetable plant as part of a community-run garden. Donations accepted from this exhibit contribute directly to the construction of a garden at The Spring, a local domestic abuse shelter. To become a guardian of a plant, an interview, health evaluation and background check are required, along with a minimum 90-day relationship with the plant.

TMA is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, at its interim location, 2306 N Howard Ave. The exhibit runs till Sept. 28.