Kraken Island: Envisioning a circular society

Kraken Island: Envisioning a circular society

Joao Vitor Marcilio/Unsplash

Related Topics:
Climate, Green Living, Infrastructure, Sustainability

Imagine the year is 2035 and man-made islands have been developed off the coasts of the United States for resettlement due to greater sea-level rise than anticipated. In this future there are seven blocks of islands, and the President of the United States plans to experiment with a variety of management and governance strategies on each block.

In this scenario, you are tasked with developing environmental guidelines to maintain a sustainable and environmentally efficient island block of your choosing. You are given some control over who gets citizenship and can remain an inhabitant of the island because most of the individuals will be climate migrants. Therefore, you need to determine what actions will take place if the rules/laws are not followed. Imagination, humor, and conciseness are encouraged….

These were the instructions for the final project of an environmental pollution course at Virginia Commonwealth University and this is what I created, I hope you enjoy it!

Welcome to Kraken Island, the Northern Pacific block of the idealistic sustainable man-made islands of the future. In the creation of Kraken Island, the design team will be a mix of western science experts and Indigenous experts. The western knowledge system and the Indigenous knowledge system will be complexly combined to recreate the environment of the Pacific Northwest while considering its historic climate as well as adapting to the changing climate. Creating a society with a circular economy that is rooted in biomimicry will be the main focal point for the design.

Citizenship for the island will be first offered to climate migrants affected by the rising sea levels. However, if they don’t want to live within these guidelines or if they break guidelines, then their spot will be made available. These open spots will be filled by non-climate migrants that would like to live out Kraken Island’s lifestyle of responsibility. They will go through an application and interview process to qualify for residency. All residents, both climate and non-climate migrants will go through a training and testing program that educates them on all programs and guidelines that exist on the island. This will help the citizens understand the importance of the measures, increase participation, and it will make the sustainability efforts much more efficient.  As time goes on and new programs are introduced to the island, citizens will have a few weeks to complete an informative module on the new programs to ensure proper education is enforced.

Here is the bulk of the guidelines on Kraken Island:


  • There will be no cars on the island. Other than walking and biking, the only mode of transportation will be public sky trains. These, of course, will use alternative renewable fuel sources only. The cities will be designed as compact mixed-use walkable communities, so all necessary amenities will be close by, and these modes of transportation will be more than sufficient. Emissions from personal cars are non-existent.
  • In between the compact cities, there will be diverse forest ecosystems where citizens can go hiking and connect with nature.
  • Not only will this limited amount of transportation allow for minimal air pollution, but also minimal noise pollution.
  • All walking and bike paths will be made of innovative pervious surfaces to absorb stormwater and reduce runoff.
  • A ferry must be taken to get to the island. There will not be an airport, however, there will be helicopter pads for emergency purposes. There will also be a port for getting supplies not produced on the island.


  • Living situations on Kraken Island will be in the form of a compact mixed-use city design. The mindset will be to build up and not out. There will be no individual houses or even attached townhomes. There will only be apartment-style living.
  • Every building will have either a green roof, solar panels, combined green roof, and solar panels, or the addition of micro wind turbines. The governing body will determine what type of roof is ideal for each building’s characteristics and location. GIS and data analysis will be used to make optimal decisions. These green roofs and the use of pervious surface alternatives to impervious surfaces will reduce urban heat island effects.
  • Materials used for construction will be non-traditional alternatives. For example, cement requires a lot of energy for its production and during breakdown its decarbonization process causes emissions. The island will be using alternative cement options to reduce this pollution.
  • The architecture will follow the most advanced forms of biomimicry design to require the least amount of heating/cooling. Dynamic glass will also be required to reduce the buildings’ heating, cooling, and lighting energy load.
  • LED lights will be the standard for all lighting needs. This much more efficient alternative to older technologies requires less electricity and decreases air-conditioning loads for buildings since they produce little-to-no heat. Furthermore, the dispersal of lighting from LEDs is much more concentrated and specific which will limit light pollution on Kraken Island.
  • Alternative refrigerants will be used for all refrigeration purposes on the island to reduce the potent greenhouse gases associated with traditional refrigerants.
Ryan Somma/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0


  • Circular supply chains are the foundation. The maximal possible level of industrial symbiosis will be required for all industrial activities. This reduces the need for raw materials and energy while also reclaiming waste products and lowering their pollution potential.
  • The island has a zero-emissions standard that leaves no room for air pollution from these industries, so if the emissions cannot be repurposed then they must be captured and dealt with.
  • If any toxic materials are required or produced, they must be documented and accounted for. The hazardous waste facility will have holding tanks at each factory site to make sure the correct quantity of waste has been properly captured and is accounted for before taking it away from individual locations.
  • Materials used will only be ones that can be properly processed on the island and critical materials will be avoided.


  • The island will be completely vegan with the exception of 3D-printed meat. This will cut down on all animal farming pollution including harmful methane emissions. The land on the island dedicated to agriculture will be for growing food via diverse multi-species crops. They will be completely organic to prevent runoff pollution. Crops vulnerable to fungal spoilage will be protected by the modern technology of natural defense molecules like the example Nanomik Biotechnology has created. Buffer strips will surround all crops. Since the island’s climate is not suitable for all plant species, they will partner will farms in other climates to import these products. These farms will follow the same agricultural guidelines as implemented on Kraken Island.
  • To ensure responsible production and consumption, food waste will be banned. Instead, commercial food that is no longer of perfect quality will be available to food-insecure individuals. If the food is not good enough to be eaten, then it must be diverted to the island’s composting facility and biogas facility that oversees the anaerobic digestion of waste for biogas generation.

Waste disposal

  • All products must be either made on the island or ‘island approved’ to ensure specific waste disposal treatment can be carried out. From furniture to electronics to toothbrushes and razors, everything must be ‘island approved’. Only specific sustainable, reusable, remanufacturable, and/or recyclable materials will be used. Even hospital materials will be designed and manufactured to be in accordance with measures to cut down on single-use products. Every item on the island will have a color-coded symbol on it for clear discarding.
  • Residential
    • Waste products can be disposed of via chutes in each apartment that lead to building-wide holding compartments from where they are taken to the proper facilities. There will be color-coded chutes for each type of material as well as a food waste chute. Since all items have color-coded symbols, it will be clear to residents which items go where. The chutes are also equipped with a scanner. Once an item is placed inside it, the contents will be scanned before being taken away. If it is not in the right chute, then the waste won’t be taken away until it is dealt with properly.
  • Commercial
    • This same color-coded system will be in all commercial buildings as well as around the city to prevent litter.
  • Facilities
    • The items are coded so that they are taken to the proper disposal processing facility. These facilities are specific to material type, with some including, paper, glass, metals, polymers, ceramics, electronics, textiles, biodegradables, compostable, and hazardous waste.
    • The waste facilities value repurposing, remanufacturing, recycling, and electricity generation wherever they can, in collaboration with the industry supply chains.
    • Landfill methane capture and methane digesters will be used where needed.


  • All energy produced and used on the island will be clean energy. Major contributors will be solar and wind. An extension of the island will be dedicated solely to energy generation, similar to an energy island in Denmark that has the potential to provide energy to three million households.
  • Biogas, or the production of energy from organic matter breaking down, will also be produced using plant matter, sewage, and food waste. Hydrogen and tidal energy will also contribute to the energy demands of the island.


  • Black water and grey water will be separated at the source and treated individually. Therefore, pipes from sinks and showers will be separate from sewage pipes. These pipes will be completely separated from stormwater pipes.
  • Stormwater runoff will be minimized with minimal impervious surfaces. All buildings will have either a green roof with retention and detention or a rainwater capture system and pathways will be made from pervious materials. Urban greenery will also be abundant. This will help the island adapt to the increasing extreme rainfall caused by climate change.
  • On top of extensive wastewater treatment plants and rainwater collection, there will also be desalination plants to contribute as a water source.


  • Residents can bring all of their current clothes but if they are done with them, they will either have to be donated to a thrift store or put into the ‘textiles’ disposal bins that are in each community center. Other than thrift stores where clothing can be reused, there will be very limited clothing sold on the island. The only new clothing available will be from companies such as Werewool. They use biomimicry to create biodegradable fibers without toxic dyes and petroleum synthetics. This cuts down on the CO2, wastewater, and micro-plastic pollution that the typical fashion industry produces.

Will there be hotels?

  • No, the island won’t be for tourism, only for residents. People can come for day trips but no overnight staying unless they are staying with family for a short stay. One exception to this is for potential new non-climate migrant residents. During their application process, they can come to the island for a one-week stay in the available apartment to make sure they can abide by the guidelines. Not encouraging tourism will cut down on the immense pollution that is generated by the hotel industry. Although people can’t come for vacation, it is important for people to come to see how the island operates sustainably. This will educate them on various sustainable measures that they can then possibly implement on the mainland.

Many of the challenges and solutions that this society addresses are inspired by information from the Solutions Library of Project Drawdown, and the EPA’s list of Barriers to Green Infrastructure.

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