sustainability

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Design

A Canadian Company Upcycles Millions of Disposable Chopsticks into Sleek Furniture and Home Goods

March 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

On a global scale, we collectively consume a staggering number of chopsticks each year—80 billion pairs to be exact—many of which end up discarded in landfills and other waste sites. Since 2016, though, a Vancouver-based company has been upcycling the disposable utensils into a modern, minimal line of furniture and home goods.

A new video from Business Insider goes behind-the-scenes with ChopValue to chronicle the entire production process, which starts with collecting the free, raw material from about 300 restaurants around the British Columbian city. When they’re brought back to the plant, the utensils are sorted, coated in a water-based resin, and baked in a 200-degree oven for five hours to kill all germs. They’re then broken down and loaded into a massive hydraulic machine that compresses the individual sticks into a composite board, which finally is sanded and fashioned into countertops, tiles, and dominos, among a variety of other products. Since its inception, the company has saved nearly 33 million pairs of chopsticks from entering a landfill.

With three microfactories in Canada and retailers across North America, ChopValue’s footprint is growing, and the company is currently offering opportunities for franchises. Shop coasters, shelving, and other goods on the site, and follow product launches on Twitter and Instagram. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 

 



Design

Algae Sequins Embellish a Petroleum-Free Dress Designed by Phillip Lim and Charlotte McCurdy

February 25, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © One x One, shared with permission

“Sequins are synonymous with plastic waste,” says renowned designer Phillip Lim about an endeavor to combat the egregious amount of pollution generated each year by the fashion industry. He’s part of the 2020 cohort for One X One—a Slow Factory Foundation initiative that matches scientists and designers with an eye toward regenerative technologies, equitable production, and circular economy models—in which he collaborated with Charlotte McCurdy, a researcher who’s undertaken a variety of sustainable-fashion projects. Together, they created a luxe A-line dress covered in algae sequins that’s free from petroleum and other synthetic materials.

In their partnership, the duo drew on McCurdy’s process of pulling carbon from the atmospheric reservoir and binding the organic substance together with heat, a method she used previously to create a water-resistant raincoat made from marine micro-algae. The bioplastic then is poured into custom molds and emerges in sheets that the pair cut into long, arced sequins. Because the algae-derived substance wasn’t suitable for the dress form, Lim and McCurdy sourced a mesh base from PYRATEX, a Madrid-based brand specializing in a seaweed-and-bamboo fiber called SeaCell that’s both an antiperspirant and thermoregulating.

 

Algae sequins in sheets

Speckled near the neckline with mother of pearl, the resulting dress is covered in the translucent green fringe, a color McCurdy derived organically from minerals. “The majority of our modern dyes and pigments are petrochemical in origin,” she told Dezeen. “But we had a huge, rich vocabulary of color before the Industrial Revolution that was not taking fossil fuel out of the ground, so I looked into traditional approaches to producing oil paints, which involved mineral pigments.”

Lim and McCurdy’s design isn’t for sale commercially but rather serves as a prototype for garment production in the future. For similar initiatives, check out the two other projects generated by the 2020 cohort, which include leather sneakers grown from bacteria and an apprenticeship in sustainable fashion for women from low-income and immigrant communities, on One X One’s site.

 

Sheets of the algae-based substance in molds

 

 



Design

A Nairobi Entrepreneur Is Recycling Plastic Waste into Bricks That Are More Durable Than Concrete

February 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

Collectively, we use a staggering amount of single-use plastic each year—we buy one million plastic bottles each minute around the world—most of which ends up in landfills, oceans, and other natural spaces. Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combatting this global crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks used for patios and other construction projects.

Prior to launching her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer. After encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.

Made from a combination of plastic and sand, the pavers have a melting point higher than 350°C and are more durable than their concrete counterparts. Matee and her team source much of the raw product from factories and recyclers, and sometimes it’s free, which allows the company to reduce the price point on the product and make it affordable for schools and homeowners. So far, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities in the community.

“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter–a basic human need,” Matee said in a statement. “Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”

Right now, the company generates between 1,000 and 1,500 bricks per day,  and Matee hopes to expand across Africa. You can see more of Gjenge Makers’ production and finished projects on Instagram. (via designboom)

 

Nzambi Matee. All images via Gjenge Makers

 

 

 



Art Design

An Innovative Installation Embeds Lights into a Five-Acre Field to Spur Crop Growth

January 22, 2021

Grace Ebert

Spread across a thick field of leeks in the Netherlands is Daan Roosegaarde’s new installation that illuminates the practice of modern farming, highlighting the plants that feed us and their plights. In “Grow,” the Dutch artist and designer, who’s known for glowing, interactive exhibits, implanted the rows with red, blue, and ultraviolet lights that shine vertically across the crop and shift in entrancing motion.

Spanning 20,000-square-meters, the multi-faceted project is both aesthetic and practical: the radiant landscape is visually stunning, while the embedded elements enhance plant growth and cut pesticide use in half. Roosegaarde worked with existing photobiological technology and distinct “light recipes” that are thought to improve crop resistance and their metabolisms without added chemicals. “It gives a new meaning to the word ‘agri-culture’ by reframing the landscape as a living cultural artwork,” the studio says in a statement.

In a conversation with Dezeen, Roosegaarde noted that a trip to a local farm spurred the project, which the designer now hopes will act as a blueprint for similar works. The Netherlands is the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world—the U.S. is first—and is known for innovating more sustainable technologies. With some shifts in the combination of lights and placement, this singular project could have wide-reaching implications for crop production around the world.

“Grow” took Roosegaarde’s studio about two years to complete and is part of Rabobank’s artist-in-residence program. It’s slated to tour 40 countries in the coming months. For more of Roosegaarde’s work that falls at the intersection of art, design, and science, head to Instagram.

 

All images © Daan Roosegaarde, shared with permission

 

 



Design

Swirling Plumes of Black-and-Gold Rattan Fill the Ceiling of a Bangkok Lounge

December 11, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Enter Asia Projects

The rattan devotees over at Enter Projects Asia are back with a sweeping installation that swells through a Bangkok restaurant overlooking the Chao Priya River. Occupying the lounge of Spice & Barley, two 30-meter pillars ascend from the ground level before erupting into a mass of black-and-gold stripes.

Patrick Keane, the director of the Thailand-based firm, told Dezeen that the team “used 3D special effects software—Maya and Rhino—to simulate bubbles, foam, and liquids” that reference the array of Belgium beers the restaurant serves. Concealing pipes and ventilation equipment, the spiraling forms also mirror the nearby architecture, while the painted stripes evoke the country’s gilded temples.

Similar to its sinuous yoga sanctuary, Enter Projects Asia utilized only natural materials for the overall design, like leather and of course, rattan. The natural, woody material is a particular favorite of the firm because of its sustainability and ties to local culture. “Many rattan factories are at the brink of extinction due to the rise of importation of inferior plastic products. This project saved two rattan factories from closing down,” Keane said.

Explore more environmentally and culturally conscious projects from the firm on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art Design

Utilizing Modern 3D Printing, Artistic Duo Rael San Fratello Constructs Coiled Earthen Architecture

August 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Rael San Fratello, shared with permission

Modern architectural building methods and Indigenous materials converge in the latest endeavor by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, titled “Casa Covida.” The earthen structure is part of a MUD Frontiers/Zoquetes Fronterizos that centers on Pueblo de Los Ángeles and the ways technological advances can work in unison with historic mud-based designs. “Casa Covida” contains a bathing pool, sleeping areas, and fireplace seats for two.

To create the three-room home, the duo employs a custom, portable robot that they transport to various sites, allowing them to dig soil and other materials and immediately shape it into the necessary structures. Utilizing clay and mud, the building process is informed by the practices of Ancestral Pueblo peoples and Indo-Hispano cultures of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. When wet, the natural materials are layered in zigzag-like coils. The undulating, textured facades generally are made with a few rows to provide insulation from the nighttime cold.

MUD Frontiers was a recent recipient of a 2020 Art + Technology grant from LACMA. It strives to consider “traditional clay craft at the scale of architecture and pottery. The end goal of this endeavor is to demonstrate that low-cost and low-labor construction that is accessible, economical, and safe is possible,” a statement says.

Based in La Florida, Colorado, and Oakland, respectively, Rael and San Fratello are known for subversive projects at the intersection of art and architecture, like the neon pink teetertotters slotted through the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Follow their latest sustainable works on Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)