By Guest Blogger: Silvia Ceria of DforDesign
Sustainability is a wide term, fascinating on one side and on the other very confusing. What exactly does it mean to be sustainable?
Time to bring some clarity! Looking in the dictionary, sustainable refers to “something that can endure”. But how does this translate in business or design practice?
What follows is a journey through sustainability in the interior design industry with exciting examples, terms defined, and innovations celebrated.
Intuitively, one would think that natural materials are always sustainable. But that’s not necessarily the case. Next to the actual material, it’s important to consider production, sourcing, and waste. Therefore, a natural material is more sustainable if it needs fewer resources to be grown and is sourced respecting nature’s replenishment cycles.
A good example is wood—a very common material in interior design. Cutting down trees at a massive rate (or worse, clear cutting old growth trees) is not sustainable. And neither are the objects made with such wood.
Certifications that focus on forest management – like FSC and PEFC – ensure forest ecosystems remain in tact as the lungs of our world and critical habitat for biodiversity to thrive.
Riviera, for example, by Skagerak is a furniture piece made of FSC-certified teak wood. Being extendable and operable, it works as bench, side table and sun-bed. Besides saving money and space to the end-user, a multi-functional piece saves resources that would have gone into the production of other items!
Materials have a long life, often longer than the objects they’re used for. IN fact, most products spend more time being produced or in the land fill than they do in “use”. Yet, when an object is discarded, chances are its materials are still in good condition. It makes financial and environmental sense to recycle those materials!
Reusing materials in multiple production cycles also fits into the transition towards a global circular economy, which means to “keep products and materials in continual use” among its founding principles (i.e. there is no longer such a thing as “waste”). In a circular economy, we “mine” materials already in use and recycle or upcycle them into other products.
For example, NOMA makes an armchair made of 77.5% recycled materials, including recycled foam and polyester for the seat and recycled plastic for the back. Steel components are also partially recycled and NOMA is working to further improve on this point.
Speaking of material recycling, waste deserves a special mention. Waste is a label attached to products and materials that are deemed to be no longer useful. But in the right hands, they can be useful again!
Offcuts are such a “waste” (i.e. production leftovers) that companies are now increasingly reusing —and saving money in the process.
Another source of so called waste is the incredible amount of trash produced every day in our less-than-efficient world. Turning waste into high quality treasure is now the name of the game.
The René by Salvatori is a bistro table made with stone scraps. Part of the Lost Stones initiative, it gives new life to old stone leftovers by gluing them together using Kintsugi (a traditional Japanese technique that uses golden lacquer to repair broken pottery).
Ubu by Planq is another example of a chair designed to repurpose textile waste. Its back and seat are made by mixing discarded textiles with a biodegradable binder coming from potato or corn starch. The resulting material – PlanqTextile– takes its marbled colour from the raw material itself. Green from old army clothes, blue from jeans and airline uniforms, beige from coffee bags and so on.
And, LAAB by Miyuca is a collection of pendant lamps made by upcycling fallen leaves that are mixed with natural additives and biological resins and then moulded into reusable wooden moulds.
New Material Innovation
The importance of sustainable development is inspiring designers to experiment with creative techniques, resulting in jaw-dropping new innovations in materials.
For example, Almond by Keep Life, is a mirror whose base is made with an innovative new material obtained from crushed dried fruits shells mixed with a solvent-and formaldehyde- free binder.
And, MushLume by Danielle Trofe, is a table lamp that embraces the concept of biofabrication in design. Its shade is literally grown using mushroom mycelium and agricultural byproducts.
Although important, materials are only one part of the story. The rest has to do with processes, from design to production, transportation and disposal. The initial design phase is crucial because it takes many irreversible decisions. Among the rest, designing for sustainability entails developing easy-to-disassemble products (so that materials can be reused), providing spare parts (for repairing) and conceiving flexible products that adapt to changing needs.
Wait by Nola, for instance, is an FSC-certified wood bench whose modular design allows adaptations over time. Damaged parts can be replaced & recycled, stretching the lifecycle of this product even more.
Lighter Supply Chain
Sustainability in the supply chain is very much a work in progress. There is no golden formula, just individual measures to combine. These include powering operations with renewable energy, minimizing and reusing production waste and using recycled packaging – just to name a few.
Bolon, for example, produces sustainable vinyl flooring by upcycling PVC waste. Manufacturing happens in a zero-waste factory that runs on 100% renewable energy coming from water, windmills and local groundwater cooling.
Social considerations fall into the sustainability (triple bottom line: people, planet, profit) scope as well. And interior design productions have a role to play. Among the many needs to be tackled is the reduction of global inequalities.
Bwari by Nkuku, for example, is a cutting board made of marble and upcycled mango wood, that is manufactured by Indian artisans working under fair conditions. Nkuku has chosen to collaborate with suppliers that are starting off in their fair trade journey, thus contributing to the creation of more ethical employment for artisans around the world.
Not to be forgotten, the most sustainable way is not making things at all. In interior design, this translates into valuing vintage items, restoring and updating them if necessary.
Renaissance Rehab, for example, is an upcycling project that updates old design objects with scrap designer fabrics, thus “re-circulating beauty”.
Sustainable interior design is a growing trend because it makes financial and environmental sense, plus it’s an industry full of inspiring creatives willing to test the boundaries of what’s possible in sustainable innovation. For more ideas and examples, you’re welcome to visit SforSustainable – my online platform of curated Earth-friendly interior products (including those mentioned above).
Thank you, Sylvia, for this informative and inspiring guest blog!
—Claire of Live Creative Studio
Live Creative is a sustainable business, marketing, and shopping hub. Our Creative Studio offers authentic marketing, branding, and sustainable business expertise to ethical, sustainable, and purpose brands. And Sustainable Business Team offers sustainability strategy and goals setting as well as sustainable packaging services. And, our Lifestyle Team curates our global Sustainable Marketplace, the Durango Sustainable Biz Guide, and Get Real—our inspiring Innovation for Good weekly newsletter.