Sustainability Hub Big Ideas Weekend
The Sustainability Hub Big Ideas Weekend brought together a wide range of businesses, community organisations, artists and innovators from across the borough. It’s such a pleasure to attend an event at our very own local arts centre, The Point in Eastleigh, Hampshire.
We installed our mini design studio to introduce the public to sustainable interior products, to the pitfalls of fast (interior) fashion and to how we are trying to design and specify with the planet in the forefront of our minds. We know that you can create inspiring interior design projects without creating further impact on our planet.
Firstly, we need to recycle the furniture and products that have already been manufactured. TRACO UK (based in Portsmouth, serving London and the South East) collect unwanted furniture from commercial premises and find new homes for it. We bought our wonderful (probably unused) Frovi poseur desk from them plus 6 immaculate OrangeBox stools at less than half the retail price.
Fashions are changing and adapting to a more earth-conscious approach. Using vintage items to accessorise an office space is becoming more common and a trend for more eclectic schemes and varied colours suits environmental (and economic) needs.
Unfortunately, the commercial interiors sector has an appalling track record for disposing of perfectly good furniture, flooring, lighting etc. It generally ends up in a skip and more often than not in landfill. More and more organisations, designers, manufacturers and indeed waste management companies are starting to address the waste but there is a lot more to be done. We need to move away from the mindset of new = good, used = bad. It’s easier than you think to reverse that thinking!
Secondly, we need to utilise the materials we have already. We have waste in our oceans, in landfill, being incinerated, clogging our sewers and just sitting in yards all over the country, forgotten. We need people with ideas, big and small, to start using those materials and turning rubbish into wonderful, useful things.
The Wood Recycling Project in Southampton is one of many projects nationwide that collect, sell and repurpose waste wood from the construction industry, namely scaffolding planks and pallets. There is a limit to the longevity of scaffolding planks due to health and safety requirements (quite rightly!) so whilst they continue to be used in the building industry, they will continue to become redundant after a certain time. Although deemed unsuitable for sustaining the weight of builders at height, they are far from useless.
Revive Innovations are a great start-up we discovered at Clerkenwell Design Week this year. They recycle one thing – CDs – to create hard surfaces. They sell a range of coffee tables, plant stands and soap dishes as well as some rather fetching earrings. What’s really special about Revive is that they have designed a process that needs no additional materials. They use purely the CDs themselves to make cool, terrazzo-style surfaces, with no nasty resin to set the pieces in. You can post them your old CDs – we had hundreds of backup files that had no value whatsoever and now they may well be in the corner of someone’s living room.
Ocean Plastic Pots take a similarly direct approach to the issue of ocean plastic waste. After being horrified by the amount of plastic rope and fishing nets being washed up on Scottish beaches, diver Ally Mitchell decided to put it to use. Ocean Plastic Pots are great-looking, hard-wearing plant pots to adorn your home, rather than polluting our oceans.
We have used Sunbury Designs for contract textiles for many years. They’ve always been a reliable company with a good range to suit our clients. We were delighted to hear that they have launched their first recycled ocean plastics textiles. Fabrics in the commercial sector have to achieve various standards before we can specify them for projects and in a way, this has slowed progress in the industry. However, their Zonda, Cascade and Sorsdal ranges are fully compliant with contract standards as well as being made from 100% waste plastic. Read more about their recycled ranges here.
Investing in Innovation
Thirdly, we need to invest in innovation. Recycling and reusing are not enough to create a truly sustainable, recovering planet. We need to change almost everything we do. We need to reduce energy consumption dramatically and we need innovations comparable to the invention of the LED to move that forward. We need to support biodiversity in our built environment, reduce air pollution, protect our seas and protect food security. The challenges ahead are scary but we need to face them head-on.
It may seem a small thing in a world so complex but we’d like to finish by focussing on paint. Graphenstone are an extraordinary company who have created a truly innovative paint. Graphene is a form of carbon that was identified many years ago but fully isolated and characterised by physicists at the University of Manchester in 2004. Stronger than steel, graphene has been added to natural lime-based paint and created a game-changing product. It’s significantly better for the environment and better for your health than mainstream paint products.