Piñatex™, innovative and sustainable textiles from pineapples!

Piñatex-PunackpuckCarmen Hijosa has a well-honed eye for beautiful things having worked with luxury leather goods for more than twenty years.  Her Damascene moment came when a piece of consultancy work took her to a leather tannery in a developing country.  The impact was laid bare, and shocking.  Soon after she was engaged by a Philippine client to upgrade their leather goods for export.  Rather than working with leather (which was imported), Carmen advised looking at local materials readily available in the Philippines.  Over five years of research and development, and a PhD at the Royal College of Art, following culminating in the launch of Piñatex™, a natural and sustainable non-woven textile by Ananas Anam Ltd, backed by the InnovationRCA, and protected by patent.

Piñatex™ is made from fibres of pineapple leaves, which are usually discarded and left to rot when the fruit is harvested.  The fine, flexible fibres are extracted from the leaf through a process called decortication.  Once degummed, the fibres are surprisingly soft to the touch and breathable.  They are processed into a non-woven mesh textile at a local factory in the Philippines, then shipped to a finishing factory near Barcelona, Spain.  The company already has sufficient scale to meet orders of up to 500m of fabric in a variety of colours, finishes and thicknesses.

Piñatex-Ginto02As the Piñatex’ pineapple fibres are a by-product of the fruit harvest, no extra water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them.  The textile, which is renewable, compostable, and tactile is also amazingly versatile as it is mouldable and easily dyed.  It feels like felt, and is suitable for a range of finishes: waxed it looks like leather; embossed it looks like an animal or reptile skin (pictured above); and the metallic finish adds a whole new glamorous edge.  The current water-resistant coating, while technically biodegradable, still contains a tiny amount of petro-chemicals, so Hijosa is working with Bangor University, supported by an innovation voucher from InCrops (specialists in biorenewables and bio-based products) to develop a completely compostable, non-petroleum based coating.

Piñatex-BagaheThe textile has direct appeal to the fashion, accessories and furnishing industries.  Having passed all the technical tests (ISO international standards for: seam rupture, tear resistance, tensile strength, light and colour fastness and abrasion resistance), a number of key brands are now using the textile to develop prototype products.  At around £18 per metre, Pinatex is more economical than leather (typically around £30 per metre), and there is much less waste.  The irregular shape of leather hides leads to significant wastage of around 25%, where as Pinatex is available on 218cm or 150cm wide rolls.

This week sees the first official presentation of Pinatex, the Pine-Apple Show, Imagine everyday through Piñatex™ at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU from 12th -17th December.  Prototype products made from Piñatex™ designed by Ally Capellino, Camper, Puma, John Jenkings in collaboration with Ulterior Design Upholstery, Patricia Moore, Dagmar Kestner, SmithMatthias and Julia Georgallis will be on show.  The event is supported by the RCA, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in London, underlining the potential for this product to support sustainable livelihoods.

Intended Life CycleHijosa has worked in partnership with an agricultural co-operative in the Philippines to source the material.  The fibres represent only 5% of the leaf, so the remaining biomass, the by-product of decortication, can be converted into organic fertiliser (typically the farmers’ greatest cost) or bio-gas. So Pinatex has the potential to offer the farmers two new revenue streams, from the fibres and the bio-mass.  The process uses tried and tested technologies reducing barriers to scaleability.   Hijosa aims to replicate the production in other geographies, providing sustainable livelihoods for agricultural communities, and perhaps introducing greater variety to the range of finishes and products based on different traditions.  In time, and with the support of the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the existing finishing partners in Barcelona and Hijosa intend to develop the skills and knowledge to finish the textile in the Philippines.

PiñatexTM is more than a versatile non-woven, natural textile with great aesthetic and technical performance; the whole life-cycle of the textile has been designed and developed along Cradle2Cradle principles, in fact, Dr. Michael Braungart, author of “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” is assessing Hijosa’s PhD thesis.  Pinatex is a story of innovation finding beauty and inspiration in the discarded.

 

 

 

 

A day of tear down and design up for the circular economy

Circular-Economy-ConceptAs part of the Disruptive Innovation Festival, SustainRCA, the Royal College of Art’s sustainability hub, hosted two events exploring innovation and the circular economy, practically and conceptually.  The hands on workshop, Business Modelling for a Circular Economy, was the perfect complement to the evening’s panel discussion, Peering into the Next Wave of Innovation. The phrase ‘circular economy’ is increasingly used by business, media and academia as a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design.  As Ken Webster, Head of Innovation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, described during the panel discussion, the circular economy is defined by a set of principles: two, separate cycles (pictured left): biological materials, designed to re-enter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality; diversity provides strength and resilience; the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy; embracing systems thinking, to reflect the real-world where systems are non-linear, feedback-rich, and interdependent; and thinking of cascades, as products are repaired, reused, remanufactured and recycled realising more value, and managing resources with less waste.

The conventional, linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model has relied on large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy.  We live in a diffiernt paradigm, bound by legacy systems and resource constraints.  Input prices, which declined for most of the 20th century, are rising and increasingly volatile, driven by physical, and, as Mark Shayler, director of agencies, Ape, and TicketyBoo, noted, by political access.  Rapid consumption patterns are losing a lot of value to landfill:  around $2.7trillion of the $3.2 trillion created by the FMCG industry each year, according to Jamie Butterworth, Ellen MacArthur Foundation speaking at another DIF event.  With 3 billion more middle class consumers by 2030 and a finite planet, we have to do things differently.  Not just more efficiently, but more effectively.

Hugo Spowers of Riversimple began the panel discussion with a complete circular economy vision for car use, from ownership to mobility, a redesign of the car, business model and corporate governance.  Citing Joanna Macy, Spowers called for a simultaneous shift in method, methodology and mindset.  A service dominant logic places the user at its centre, as in We All Design‘s Circular Business Board which was presented by founder Rob Maslin, as a framework for the business modelling workshop.  At its heart are the ‘User Profile’, and the ‘Function’ (the problem or user need such as washing, rather than the machine), and ‘Solution’, how can we effectively, or optimally, meet the need. bm1

Against this backdrop, our first enquiry was a product ‘tear down’.  We huddled round an Apple MacBook with tiny screw drivers.  ‘Tear down’ suggests a heady abandonment, this was a more precise and forensic exercise.  Carefully teasing the tiny screws passed battery, RAM, circuit boards, and disk-drive, (its intricacy perhaps a clue to their redundancy) until ultimately a mucky keyboard.  Well-versed in product design, my colleagues were focused on the device’s limitations for repair and disassembly.  Many of the environmental challenges device manufacturers face are around resource scarcity and price volatility, yet these challenges are often missing from the designer’s brief, says Shayler.  The post-mortem revealed death by latte on keyboard, so our method imagined a keyboard that could be readily replaced, repaired or personalised.

We sketched out a tiered service (methodology) and pricing plan.  A confident and engaged user would buy their device outright, and any parts for repair or upgrade from the manufacturer or a reseller such as iFixit.or Restart Project.  A second profile, a fashion-conscious, brand-lover, desiring the latest device would pay a premium to customise their keyboard, laser-etch the case, and be one of the first 1000 automatic upgrades for new releases.  A third user profile, someone for whom their laptop is a service platform, predominantly for email and the internet.  This user would own their device for longer, and buy a service contract without either the confidence or inclination to tinker themselves.  This service-based model minimises the environmental, social and governance issues in the supply chain (using less raw materials); remodels delivery logistics to provide for the return of the physical asset; provides a tiered service plan, where the level of engagement or contract matched their service need. Barry Waddilove, Home Product Design, and team designed a network of technology clubs in charity shops for kids and young adults, making use of the ‘waste’ electronics they are given to create educational workshops and with an electronics brand as strategic partner, others kettles, hairdryers and other small electronics.Hugo-new
In leasing or buy-back model, product recovery is key to retaining valuable material resources.  The opportunities are greatest for durables.  The manufacturer has every incentive to design for product disassembly and material recovery, rather than obsolescence.   If Riversimple‘s car design is revolutionary, emitting only a tiny amount of water, and more than the equivalent of 200 mpg., then its business service model is even more so.  Based around a subscription, with a fixed element, and a variable element reflecting usage, Riversimple aims to maximise life-cycle profitability.  The user buys an ongoing service where the product is refurbished, upgraded and replaced as required, made from higher quality materials.

The potential scope is much greater than decoupling product design from raw materials.   As we are five years away from losing key skills into retirement, Shayler argues, there are compelling reasons to boost innovation and engineering enterprise in the UK.  There are barriers, but the mindset is shifting, with a Government report, arguing there are, “potentially billions of pounds of benefits for UK businesses in becoming more resource efficient.”, and calling for producer responsibility regulations and lower VAT on recycled goods.  Spowers called for a more sustainable financial system, and also on the podium, Andy James, Founder and Managing Director of Six Degree People, described the need for greater collabbm2oration and advisory boards to support CEOs embarking on disruptive innovation strategies.  A few days later Andy’s comments were echoed by Professor Vlatka Hlupic at the launch of her new book, The Management Shift.  Her research demonstrates that a collaborative culture is central to developing organisations that are more resilient, more innovative and generate better returns for all stakeholders.  Innovation is joyful!

Image credits: Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Riversimple

Joining the Dots in the supply chain

pp_1The first talk of the SustainRCA 2014/15 year, Joining the Dots, drew quite a crowd.  Held in collaboration with the People’s Parliament the event was held in a House of Commons committee room.  A fitting location as transparency, accountability and human rights are at the heart of the push to join the dots on the supply chain.  Baroness Lola Young introduced the speakers, and the evening, in the context of the Modern Slavery Bill.  The Bill, due for its second reading in the House of Lords on 17th November 2014, will compel large companies to annually disclose what they have done to ensure their supply chains are “slavery free”.  As well as regulatory pressure, customers increasingly expect businesses to delivery great products and services responsibly.  The demand for greater transparency is matched with growing interest in the narrative behind products, a desire for authenticity, the result of a centrifugal force driving remote, homogenous, global brands at one extreme, and a revival of artisan, heritage and craft at the other.

logo@2Celebrating materials, maker and method gives meaning to a product, in fact the object derives greater meaning from the sum of these stories, and here lies the rationale for Provenance, a new online retail proposition from RCA graduate Jess Baker.  Every product has a story in its supply chain, and “not all products are created equal”.  Baker felt that retail experiences where look and price are the only metrics available are missing something and she suggested customers would pay up to 70% more if they knew that the benefits were going to the local community.  Observation made, Baker, with a PhD in computer science, is optimistic that technology can help us be better citizens, redressing the informational asymmetry that currently defines the retail experience.  Provenance tells the story of the people, places, processes and materials behind products.  Oh joy to discover I live a stone’s throw away from where Prestat, chocolate purveyor to H.M. The Queen is making dark salted caramel truffles!  The Provenance  API offers makers a host of smart perks, such as the ability to serve stories on other sites, but essentially it is the products’ stories that provide the marketing clout.
The second speaker, Leah Borromeo took us to the other end of the spectrum with the trailer for her documentary, “The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold”.  The film shines a light on the cotton industry in India, where around 300,000 cotton farmers have committed suicide to escape debt.  The political, social, cultural and economic context is such that 28.5% of the Indian population (343.5mn) are destitute and the estimated net worth of the top ten was $102.1 bn, around 5.5% of GDP in 2013.  The plight of cotton farmers is part of a web of relationships and pressures more complex than can be tackled in this film, but it poses some tough questions.
Cotton is just one commodity at the base of complex, dynamic, global supply chains increasingly under scrutiny.  Tim Wilson, Historic Futures, works with a range of multinational firms to map the value-chains (a term Wilson prefers to supply chain) from where raw materials are sourced to the retail distribution of products in a format that can be rapidly updated.  80% of social and environmental impact is in the value chain, and typically organisations have limited tools to measure this accurately.  We know deforestation, climate change and biodiversity loss are increasingly cause for concern, and that the rates of change of going up.  Yet lack of accurate, complete information undermines an organisation’s ability to make informed and reliable sourcing decisions.  Without the ability to convey their best practice to management or buyers, participants in the value chain can not differentiate themselves from less responsible competitors, and justify what may be a higher cost or investment.
We should not underestimate the complexity of these relationships.  For example, working with Marks & Spencer, Historic Futures, mapped 12.5 million items over 15 months, from more than 700 third party suppliers, and more than 6,500 retail points of sale.  It can be done with accuracy and precision.  Historic Future’s String 3 is working on a platform that is verifiable but does not reveal the suppliers, so enabling companies to share information, and preserve their competitive advantage.
Demand for this data is growing.  Earlier this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers bought Geo-Traceability, a company that uses GPS mapping, Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and mobile phone and bar coding systems to track products from origin to shop floor.   GeoTraceability has collected data from 113,000 small holder farmers in developing countries and is developing new approaches to trace conflict minerals, and monitor of key biodiversity indicators. Ian Powell, Chairman and Senior Partner, said: “Resource scarcity and supply chain management are significant issues for our clients. The acquisition of GeoTraceability is another example of how we are investing in innovative technologies and services that enable our clients to make better business decisions, establish trust and reduce their risk.”  For the smallholders the platform provides information to help improve their production, farming practices and build a more sustainable livelihood.
6114_pcThe final speaker, Bruno Pieters, designer and founder of Honest by, is striving to be the first company in the world to offer customers price transparency.  Pieters is an entrepreneur, fashion designer and art director well-known for his sharp tailoring developed while working with designers such as Martin Margiela, Thimister and Christian Lacroix.  Pieters returned from a sabbatical in India, with a deep-seated concern for the environment, and wider impact of fashion industry.  His vision brings radical transparency to the entire supply chain.  Click on an item that catches your eye and, in addition, to conventional information about the garment’s size and care, scroll down for details of the material, manufacture, carbon footprint, and price calculation: with 0.5 euros of thread, and the retail mark-up.  What a fascinating exercise!
Many of these ESG (environmental, social and governance) impacts materialise in the medium or longer term, beyond the horizons of quarterly returns or short-term profitability.  Momentum supporting a culture of long-termism, transparency and accountability in business, and the finance industry, is developing on several fronts.  Following the Kay Review of UK Equity Markets and Long–Term Decision Making, the recent establishment of the Investor Forum, is the latest in a series of initiatives that will drive demand for integrated analysis incorporating ESG factors into standard financial valuations.  These developments reflect a wider discussion about the role of business, and banks, as corporate citizens, such as the Blueprint for Better Business, Aviva’s Roadmap for sustainable capital markets and the Banking Standards Review.  In a survey of 30,000 consumers across twenty countries in five continents carried out by the UN Global Compact-Accenture Study on Sustainability, in collaboration with Havas Media, found “72% of people globally say business is failing to take care of the planet and society as a whole”.
Joining the dots on the supply chain is only the first part of a linear model of manufacture and consumption, characterised by “take, make, consume and throw away”.  Measuring and valuing resources reveals the real business benefits opportunities of using them more efficiently, and effectively.  The Disruptive Innovation Festival, was a virtual festival ideas from leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and businesses sharing knowledge about the circular economy, an economic model that is restorative by design.  Environmental scientists have long urged us to recognised that we live in a closed system or biosphere.  Mapping impacts is the beginning of better decisions, to borrow the words of Maya Angelou, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
P.S. Andrew Hill will interview Honest By Founder & CEO Bruno Pieters at 12pm GMT on Day 2 of the FT Innovate 2014 conference in London, ” The Digital Big Bang, how digital technologies and practices are transforming the way companies innovate and do business.”
Related links:
 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/253457/bis-12-1188-equity-markets-support-growth-response-to-kay-review.pdf

Looking ahead to London Design Festival

logo Not that you can have failed to notice, but the London Design Festival started today, an event that promises to “celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world.”  We can be certain it won’t disappoint, though perhaps less confident of seeing all there is to offer.

I will be making a beeline for the Victoria and Albert Museum to see The Wish List.  Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark, the London Design Festival and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) paired ten emerging talents with ten design legends to design and make something that they have always wanted, but never been able to find.  The superlative bespoke commission, or ultra-mentoring scheme, however you choose to describe it, the results promise to be wonderful.

hadid-nealMy particular picks will be Sebastian Cox’s workspace for Terence Conran  and Gareth Neal’s carafe for Zaha Hadid. 

Also at the V&A is a demonstration of the circular economy in action as Ella Doran, Galapagos Designs, and the RSA’s Great Recovery Project deconstruct and refurbish several upholstered chairs in the V&A Design Studio.  The circular economy is a different approach to design, manufacture and material recovery that avoids losing valuable materials to landfill.  It might whet newlogoyour appetite to visit the Great Recovery’s new home, the Fab Lab London, which opens its doors on Friday 19th September.  There will be a Restart party to tend to broken electronics, ‘Fixperts’ and tear-down & design-up workshops happening all day to prompt visitors to think about products in a more circular way.

features_ecodb_materiallandscapeOpening on Wednesday 17th (and running to the 20th September at Earls Court) is 100% Design, the biggest of the contemporary design shows.  This is its twentieth year so there will be a rare vintage mix of design talent as well as five zones of British and international design products on show. I will be making a bee-line for the Eco, Design & Build hub, designed and curated by Thomas Matthews in partnership with SCIN Gallery. The Materials Landscape promises to take visitors to exciting new territory.  The Makers Carousel by Mette has caught my eye, with the Maker Library Network running a workshop making useful objects out of waste products on the 17th, including how to make bricks from business cards.  By the end of LDF we will probably all have collected enough raw material to join in!

jn1Elsewhere at 100% Design, I will be checking out Jennifer Newman Studio‘s M-Bamboo Table ; Lozi for his distinctive geometric furniture; Lucy Turner for her modern marquetry on upcycled mid-century furniture;  Pinch for the gorgeous, graceful pieces that I have been coveting for sometime; and the Wood Awards to see Namon Gaston‘s Fosse Desk and Sebastian Cox’s Ten Species Tall Boy.  The session entitled “The Big Question: What impact will synthetic biology have on design?” on Saturday 20th at 1pm featuring Daan Roosegarde, who has designed glow-in the dark trees using bio-luminscent qualities of jellyfish to replace street lamps, and Rachel Armstrong who designs buildings that repair themselves, sounds like an invitation to wonderland.

hgf02-8tct_IsixKfgucsy4VO7YNsksQ5fI_rcU7Jg0After a full day planned at 100%design, the evening of the 17th September is the SustainRCA Show preview and Awards.  With 36 finalists working with the value of waste, the plight of bees, great gadgets and smarter systems (the smart shopping app, Disclosed, is pictured left), the judges have a tough call.  Perhaps Mohammed J Ali’s A New Enlightenment which imagines a sharing economy around renewable energy, shared goods, services and information will triumph?  Ali used an independent Scotland as a case study, so by the end of this week it may no longer be an imagined scenario.

product_541062b2967991410359986145940Heading east is designjunction, taking place at the Old Sorting Office, New Oxford St. London from the 18th to the 21st of September.  I’ll be dropping in to see Made in Ratio’s updated Supernova table, with a new 100% recycled aluminium finish; marvelling at master craftsmen from Waterford Crystal and Bert & May at the Flash Factories; admiring ercol‘s and Anglepoise timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction (Tom Dixon’s design is pictured right); checking out Anthony Dickens light for new brand Made in the ForgeHend Krichen, cherchbi, Kristjana Williams, Africa Calling and Tom Raffield.  If it didn’t clash with the climate march, I would be back to hear Kathy Shenoy, Shake the Dust, and Heath Nash, South African designer and British Council ‘Maker Librarian’ discussing the rise in interest in regional artisans, craft and design work from around the world on Sunday 21st at 1.30pm.

sc1Further east still to Tent London at the Old Truman Brewery (18th-21st September) to catch up with (in no particular order) Daniel Heath glorious decorative finishes; Galvin Brothers new Cross Lap collection; Seascape Curiousities one year after launch; Sebastian Cox (Shake Cabinet, pictured left), as I can not attend an event where he is exhibiting without coveting his products; Seven Gauge Studios new woven cotton collection; and Tracey Tubb‘s geometric, 3-dimensional, folded wallpapers.

Around the fringe, The Big Small Show, at the Hoxton Basement Gallery (15th – 19th September) promises to be a thought-provoking with a group of recent graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Design Products course engage with contemporary contradictions of global versus local, craft versus mass-manufacture and more.

Bq_-6yMCQAALj3fAnother recent RCA graduate, Diana Simpson, is now designer in residence at 19 Greek Street, an innovative interior design studio, gallery,and materials library.  Simpson’s Glass Lab turns discards glass bottles into hand-crafted architectural materials, not least of which is the bar top at London’s newest private members club, Library (pictured right).

If you missed seeing Tom Raffield at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, he will be creating a woodland workshop at at Adventures in Furniture, Islington as part of the new Islington Design District.  Elsewhere, there is the debut of the Queens Park Design District, where I hope to sneak a peak at Christoph Behling’s woven wood.

revised_tracey_neuls_dps_1Oh, and there is also home, (co-located with Top Drawer) at Olympia from 14th-16th September for all manner of design-led homewares and interior accessories brands.  It will be a whistle-stop tour at best for me with so much to pack into one week.  And then it will be Decorex!

I”ll certainly be taking advantage of the West London Design District Visa promotion to invest in a pair of Tracey Neuls‘ shoes to ease my cycling around the city!

 

Image credits:  Benchmark; designjunction/Teddy’s Wish; Diana Simpson; SustainRCA; Thomas Matthews; Tracey Neuls

Related links:

http://video.ft.com/3775193342001/London-Design-Festival-Made-in-Britain/Editors-Choice

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/04/10/what-a-lot-of-bottle-a-conversation-glass-lab/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/06/25/show-rca-ringing-the-changes/

 

SustainRCA Show and Award 2014 finalists

RCA.SustainSustainability appeared in many guises at this year’s ShowRCA 2014, so it is not surprising that SustainRCA received a record number of applicants.  Almost 100 graduates from across the Royal College of Art, including the new programmes Interior Design, Service Design and Information Experience Design, applied to join the SustainRCA’s  dedicated programme of tutorials, talks, workshops, specialist resources and access to a professional sustainability network. As I scoured the Show, several of the SustainRCA graduates spoke warmly of the inspiration, mentoring and support that they have received from SustainRCA.  The freedom to explore many meanings of sustainability is reflected in the variety of work.  From new materials and processes to community projects and designs for a fairer, more transparent economy, the 36 SustainRCA Show finalists provide innovative responses to scarcity.  Beauty is a powerful motivator of behavioural change. larson

The declining health of coral reefs has been widely reported recently, with a WWF campaign to prevent dumping in the Great Barrier Reef, and growing concern about ocean acidification, which makes it harder for corals to absorb the calcium carbonate needed to make skeletons.  The delicate beauty of Monette Larson’s Aspiring Nature, certainly captures people’s attention.  The series of filigree glass installations made of small glass spheres fused together in the kiln to create larger organic structures inspired by corals.  Shimmering in the light, the delicate tonal turquoises and blues transport you to a marine landscape, the glass a metaphor for the fragility of marine eco-systems, where coral reefs are necessary to an estimated 25 per cent of all marine life.  nbennett

If Larson’s work excites an appreciation for the sheer beauty of coral, Nell Bennett’s project, Coral3, directly tackles ocean acidification, and provides a potential income for local communities.  Bennett created alkaline substrate structures to be placed up current from coral reefs. Over time, the water dissolves the alkaline structure, making the water surrounding the reef less acidic.  The coral reef is strengthened, enhancing local biodiversity, providing greater coastal protection and an opportunity for well-managed tourism.  The project is envisioned as a large scale social enterprise involving many stakeholders from subsistence fishermen to dive tourists, but offers potential for significant economic and environmental benefits. melchiorri

Julian Melchiorri‘s Silk Leaf & Exhale is another prototype, a biomaterial derived from silk protein and chloroplasts. It is an artificial leaf that absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen and biomass via the photosynthesis of stabilised chloroplasts in the silk protein.  Silk Leaf can generate more oxygen and biomass than a normal leaf, depending on the number of chloroplasts embedded in the silk.  Silk Leaf could be used for a variety of applications from interiors products, such as the lights pictured right, to architectural surfaces that provide air purification.  Green buildings in more ways than one!

Marcin RusakMarcin_Rusak_Monster_Flower_6‘s Flowering Transition is a conceptual project that explores the commoditisation of flowers cultivated for the global cut-flower industry. These mass-produced flowers are often highly-engineered to accentuate their longevity, scent, colour or other commercial virtues.  In consequence, some flowers have lost their scent, sense of local connection and ritual.  This work is divided into five chapters: fragrance; a perishable vase made from waste flowers; a textile printed with waste flowers in gorgeous purple, pink and lilac hues; and then two chapters devoted to Flower Monster which speculates where further genetic engineering of flowers, to suit a commercial wish list, will lead.  rusakRusak collaborated with geneticists, post harvesting specialists, engineers and floral artists to combine existing flower species, each with a different virtue.  The model was 3D scanned, and after some software alchemy printed in 3D.  Beware the monster created by the search for perfection.

Max Danger.Queen bee pinThe cultivated flower industry relies on the services of the humble bee, as do up to 90% of all wild plants, and 70 of the 100 staple crops that provide 90% of world’s food.  Max Danger‘s witty Let it Bee! graphics, drawings and jewellery speculate on the future of bees to stunning effect.  God save the Queen, is a beautiful pin made of 18 ct gold and diamonds.  Gabriele Dini‘s Swarm’s Scale, a large installation of honeycomb provides another perspective from which to appreciate the complexity of bee’s behaviour, as it is derived from swarm data.  Our appreciation needs to be for more than aesthetic.  Bees numbers are in drastic decline due to factors such as diseases and parasites, climate change and wider industrial agricultural practices, including loss of wildflower meadows and deadly insecticides. Julia Johnson_Plan Bee_RCA_2014_007 Julia Johnson’s Plan Bee is a self-monitoring beehive that detects unusual activity in the bee breeding patterns and could help to detect disease or infestations.  In a Plan Bee hive, a scanner captures images of the brood daily, which are then digitally analysed for any unusual patterns, and the beekeeper is alerted to any unusual symptoms.  Perfect for the 99% of beekeepers registered as hobbyists that inspect their hive, on average once a fortnight.

mitsuiIf the many of the projects remind us that nature’s bounty is fragile and precious, others provide ways to make better use of raw materials and rescue the value that is often lost to waste.  With New Value Of The Waste, Hana Mitsui developed a weaving process that revitalises discarded cloth into new, luxurious materials.  Mitsui’s original yarns created from textile waste can be used for industrial and hand-weaving looms.  Mitsui creates rich woven patterns inspired by traditional ikat fabrics.  ladNeha Lad‘s Beauty In The Discarded literally shimmers as Lad’s experiments combine precious and up-cycled materials with traditional handicraft techniques.

Timothy Sadler‘s VIBE is a computer interface that uses vibration to transfer information to a digital output, without electrical circuit board. This streamlined product vastly reduces the amounts of critical raw materials used, and so their waste streams.  Two projects envision a circular economy model for consumer electronics.  Paul Stawenow‘s Project PHOENIX, supports design for disassembly and material recovery to tackle the a small percentage of small electronic appliances are currently recycled. PHOENIX products would be designed so the user can separate the electronic parts from the casing in a delightful way. Parts would either be put in domestic recycling or returned to the manufacturer in a pre-addressed envelope.  In many portable devices, raw materials are hard to recover as components are stuck together to achieve a sleeker look and feel.  Andreas Bilicki’s, eGlu is a reversible adhesive for electronic components that would enable easier bonding and separating of components, making it easier to replace a broken screen or recycle a smart phone.

2e893105-3860-42aa-a709-93cc4a89bc7c-620x413With festival season in full swing, Sol Lee‘s Smart Festivals is a rental system for camping equipment with a colourful intelligent wrist band.  No more lugging sleeping bags, tents and other gear to the site for festival goers.  The aftermath of Glastonbury 2014 (pictured left) is typical of desolate post-festival fields littered with tents abandoned after a single use.  With an average 10kg rubbish per person, much of it textile waste, the scheme would reduce the great clean up for organisers.  The system would also enable intelligent affiliate partnerships, with further development.  Festival goes in 2015 can travel light, travel far for their summer rites.

ShenaiChange Ringing is a collaborative artwork by artist Peter Shenai and composer Laurence Osborn that would chime perfectly with Glastonbury as it combines music, sculpture, and performance to literally convey the sound of climate change.  The six bronze bells have been cast in shapes mathematically derived from graphic statistical representations of summer temperatures at seventeen-year intervals over the course of the twentieth century.  Arranged, and struck in order the bells ring out a sombre, inharmonious warning.  It simply does not ring true.  What a wonderful example of Information Experience Design, making the intangible data of climate change intuitively comprehensible.

degarmoFinally, a super, simple gadget.  Ashley de Garmo and Federico Trucchia’s Mag-Cook uses a series of spinning magnets to create induction heat to cook your supper without gas or electricity.  It is manually operated, so could be used anywhere you have space to pull the cord!

As Head of SustainRCA, Clare Brass said: ‘The diversity, depth and quantity of graduate work this year is unprecedented. There’s growing awareness that sustainability – environmental and social equality and justice – really underpins the fabric of our future.”

The winners across four categories, Moving Minds, Visionary Process, Inspired Product and Solutions for Society, will be selected from the 36 finalists, and announced at a private view on 17 September.  Each receive a bursary of £5,000 to support their ongoing work in sustainability.  The SustainRCA Show and Awards will then run from 18 September–3 October, supported by the Genesys Foundation and Climate-Kic.  I hope to catch up with a few of the finalists before the show to tell their story in fuller form, so watch this space!

Image credits: Adam Gray/SWNS.com; SustainRCA

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/06/25/show-rca-ringing-the-changes/

http://www.scin.co.uk/blog/2014/7/10/endlessly-creative-at-the-end-of-year

Virtuous circles of conscious consumption

UnknownIn the midst of exhibitors proudly displaying their new wares at May Design Series, Stephen Gee, Director of Resource hosted a discussion on the circular economy with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.

Our industrial economy can be described as a series of massive conveyor belts (“Remaking the industrial economy“, McKinsey Quarterly, Feb 2014), sucking in raw materials and resources at one end, channelling them through manufacturing and production processes, often located in different geographies, pushing products into retail networks, where they are consumed, then discarded and replaced with surprising rapidity.  90% of all products are waste within 6 months of purchase.

Resources are increasingly limited, and ever more in demand, so their prices are rising, and volatile.  As well as increasing costs of supply, demands for resources are growing with three billion more middle-class consumers forecast  by 2030 (from a presentation by Dr Markus Zils, CEO Returnity Partners).  The linear, one-way production model is under increasing under strain.

A circular economy aims to recover and restore products and materials, eradicating waste.  This is not simply recycling,  when large amounts of embedded energy and value are lost, or efficient manufacturing processes, but systemic redesign to create a continuous flow of products and components.

Circular-Economy-Concept“The circular economy is a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design. Materials flows are of two types, biological materials, designed to reenter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality, in turn entraining the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy.” The Ellen McArthur Foundation

The system diagram (pictured above, from the Ellen McArthur Foundation) illustrates the necessarily distinct paths of biological and technical components or nutrients.  Biological nutrients can easily return to the biosphere without depositing synthetic materials or toxins. Technical nutrients can continuously circulate in closed loop industrial cycles.  We have some way to go.  At the moment, in the fast-moving consumer goods industry roughly 80% of the $3.2 trillion worth of materials used each year is not recovered.

sthomas1To illustrate what that means, the toothbrush, that humble, innocuous aid to our daily routine uses 1.5 kg of material in its manufacture (see the slide from Sophie’s presentation, left). We replace our toothbrush every few months, so that is 6kg per person, per annum, just on toothbrushes.  Sophie Thomas, designer, co-founder of the Great Recovery, is on a mission to create more circular systems through good product design.  “Waste really is a design flaw” (Kate Krebbs, ANRC), quotes Sophie, and a Design Council report notes that about 80% of environmental costs are pre-determined during the product conception an design stage.

cc09a86259a7649b0ce694a3d5ac4650The Great Recovery project has sketched out four design models for a circular economy, represented by the multicoloured loops at the top of the page.  The inner loop is ‘design for longevity’.  Designing products that can be repaired or upgraded.,  Products that are well made and reliable so users have a strong emotional attachment, like your favourite pair of jeans.  If they are Nudie Jeans then you can get them repaired for free at Nudie Jeans Stores, or they can send you a repair kit free of charge.  If beyond the point of repair, then Nudie reuse them (and gives you 20% off a new pair), or recycle them.

20140531_WBP003_0The second (orange) loop is ‘design for leasing or service’.  Companies are constantly trying to deepen their relationship with us, urging us to register accounts, and sign up for newsletters. They might even speak of compelling customer service, but often still conceived as a linear consumption pattern.  But it is services, rather than the products themselves that we use, so voice calls, videos, hot water, and clean clothes rather than phones, tablets, boilers, and washing machines.  A service-based model changes the relationship.  The manufacturer owns the products, and materials (increasingly valuable assets), so keeping the value in the system.  Think Zip Car or Google’s vision for its driverless car,  Leasing products could allow for higher design specification.

1399989163490A02_ADEN_LargeThe third (yellow) loop is ‘design for re-use in manufacture’ where products are returned to the manufacturer for upgrade or new components.  These products are designed for disassembly via a reverse supply chain.  Two recent winners of the Furniture Makers’ Sustainability Award have taken responsibility for their products’ end of life to the heart of their businesses.  Senator International (2013 winners) and Orangebox (2012 winners, Aden chair pictured left), both suppliers to commercial clients, have their own dedicated recycling plants, and both target zero landfill.  Sometimes simple things, such as marking parts with a material identifier, means they can be recycled properly, other interventions require a more thorough design appraisal.  Good design means less material, more durable products, and less manufacturing time, easier to dissemble, repair and update.   What if legislation required producers to have responsibility for the end of life of their products?  When they don’t it is a cost to us all, directly, and indirectly to deal with the waste.

umbrellaThe outer (green) loop is fast-flowing products, such as packaging, that can be reprocessed (recycled) into new materials.  Designing with this in mind increases the value and ease of material recovery by reducing contamination.  For example a spray dispensing bottle made sole out of one type of plastic is easier to recycle than a bottle with multiple types of plastic and metal components.  Trying to recycle my child’s broken umbrella illustrates the challenge of mixed materials!

UnknownImprovements in technology and efficiency are central to more sustainable lifestyles, but there are other parts of the puzzle.  Mark Shayler challenges us think about our relationship with consumption.  Currently, around 80% of products are discarded after a single-use.  ‘Disposable’ products are a myth.  As Michael Braungart and  William McDonough, authors of “Cradle to Cradle: Re-Making the Way we Make Things, note the “away” in throw away does not really exist.  What is more, in spite of the fact that, we consume twice as much as we did in 1974, but we are not as happy.

206Shayler describes a transition from unconscious consumption to conscious consumption to conscious unconsumption, urging us to “buy right, buy once”.  For a revealing illustration of consumption in contemporary society visit the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.  I was captivated by Hong Hao’s My Things (pictured left), the result of daily scanning his consumed objects.

There is much to be said for moderation in all things.  This chimes with the first design model of longevity, through physical and emotional longevity, and the second loop of re-envisioned service-based business models.  There is value in the customer relationship.  What is more there are opportunities for companies to be champions through editing customer choice (removing unsustainable products), influencing customer choice through marketing messaging that reiterates a brand’s value, and production innovation.  Average, or ‘a bit less bad’ is not really an aspirational brand value.

And now I’m off to try and to upgrade and repair my laptop!

Image credit: Google, Hong Hao, Nudie Jeans, Orangebox

Related links:

Will Google’s self-driving pods spell the end of the road for car ownership? from the Guardian

Driverless cars: In the self-driving seat from The Economist

 

If it’s broke, fix it and win £5million

article

The Technology Strategy Board has just announced a competition to “invest up to £5m in collaborative research and development that aims to preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and keeps them in productive use for longer” with business.  The competition aims to stimulate innovation and progress towards a circular economy.

The TSB  is seeking proposals that make supply chains more circular, that is to reduce the environmental impact of material life-cycles and dependence on materials with a supply risk.  TSB expects applicants to cut general waste stream losses in half, or more.  Speaking yesterday at the LDF session entitled, Make It Better: designing products that don’t cost the Earth, Sophie Thomas of the RSA, noted, “currently for every tonne of household rubbish, a further 5 tonnes of materials were used in the manufacture of that product”.  Waste is a design flaw.   To this end, the TSB is offering two days free access to Design Mentors for applicants prior to submitting an initial expression of interest.

The opportunity in a circular economy is to use materials many times, and to retain the quality and economic value of those materials at a high level.  The prize for business is to reduce their supply risk as the prices of increasingly scarce materials, become increasingly volatile, and cost reduction.  A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation together with McKinsey & Company setting out the economic case, estimated benefit to be over USD $680bn a year at EU level for the medium complex goods sector alone

Full details of the competition are available online at the Technology Strategy Board website.

Get your thinking caps on!

Improving reading

ImageIt does what it says on the cover – a guide to sustainable materials, processes and production techniques.  Manufacturing and production methods are changing (more of that later), and in a bid to better understand how design can be produced efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way, I set myself some homework.  The book, by Rob Thompson, describes the environmental impact of materials, manufacturing processes and product life cycles.  From injection molding bioplastic to water-based printing, 15 materials, 14 processes and six production lifecycles are illustrated with case studies.

After my course on the circular economy with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, I want to see where the theory can meet with best practice!

The book is published by Thames and Hudson and retails for £16.95.