I come from a family that has more than its fair share of over-achievers. One of the most notable over-achievers is my cousin Catherine who initially trained as a solar engineer and worked on solar cars and planes for awhile before deciding she really wanted to study medicine instead. So she went to Stanford and studied medicine, then surgery. (She also had her daughter in her second year of med because, you know, it had the lightest work load). She now works in robotic surgery. I'm very proud to be related to her.
But from my point of view, her coolest project is underway at the moment. She and her husband (who is equally as smart and geeky) are building a 'green' house. But for them, throwing on a few solar panels and making sure they used insulation was never going to cut it. Oh no. They calculated the 'embodied energy' - the water and energy used to create something - of absolutely everything they built with to make sure they used the lowest energy materials. Catherine and Paul blog about their progress, but be warned it is super sciency. If you're interested but just want the summary, here's Catherine's TED talk on the topic, which has some very interesting comparisons of building materials, retrofitting compared to starting fresh, and even whether a paper towel or cloth is better to use when wiping up a spill:
For those not familiar with TED, it's an amazing resource. A regular meeting of minds, it started as a conference in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. Now it extends far beyond that. It is meant to promote interesting ideas and new thinking, and thinking beyond your own field. Many of the talks are available to watch on their website. As they term it 'Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world'.