Designing something with a ‘waste’ material makes perfect sense – especially if that material is already into it’s second life. Keeping materials at their highest possible quality is key to the success of the circular economy – and also recognising what the material strengths are. So, bags and accessories made from truck tarpaulins? Perfect sense. It’s day 6 of our Eco Gift Guide and today we are choosing the lovely stuff of M-24 bags…
With a great range of backpacks, messenger bags, wallets and accessories, M-24 create one off pieces from recovered UK truck tarpaulins that harness the very qualities a truck tarp has – strong, bright, waterproof.
This means that each product is an individual thing – a term that M-24 have dubbed ‘anti-lemmingism’. We all want to be seen as individuals, but unless we have the ability to make our own stuff, this is a better option than the mass produced, cheaply made, high mark-up alternatives on the market.
Plus, by not supplying retailers, but making their products available only through their website, pop-ups and their brand spanking new flagship store in Brighton, they are able to keep their prices very reasonable indeed as the retailer mark-up is eliminated. This also means that the cost of the high level finish and manufacturing techniques undertaken in the UK is feasible and products are available from just £5 for a keychain.
A great business model – and great products. Perfect for someone who needs their luggage to be robust and trustworthy, waterproof and individual. And what could be better than telling someone their Christmas pressie has been made in the UK and it is the ONLY one in the world?
That’s right folks – we’ve been away. Apologies for the radio silence these last couple of weeks, but things were rather hectic here at the studio, including a rather lovely trip from Brighton to Miami for the third Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM. Coming together with people from all over the world, we were there as representatives of the World Cetacean Alliance, speaking about the different outreach projects we completed in 2016 based around marine litter.
Ghost gear is the term given to abandoned, discarded or otherwise lost fishing gear, which causes continued entrapment, entanglement and ingestion issues of all species. As modern fishing gear is plastic based, it does not degrade, so continues to fish for decades… The GGGI brings together the vast amount and variety of people needed to find solutions to these issues – from industry, fishers and policy makers to recyclers, NGO’s and manufacturers.
Arriving in Coconut Grove, Miami, Day one of the GGGI AGM started with a series of inspiring presentations from World Animal Protection (the current Secretariat) and break out sessions with each of the three working groups – Building Evidence, Best Practice and Replicating Solutions.
Due to the studio’s work, and activities with WCA, I sat into the review from the Replicating Solutions Group who reported a series of brilliant projects from around the globe, concentrating on ghost gear removal and recycling. There was much discussion about what worked well and how activities could be improved and scaled up.
After lunch, we sat back in our working groups, where I was officially adopted into the Replicating Solutions group – the largest (and loudest) group of the three. Figures. We then started to plan out our voyage for 2016-2017, coming up with some rather audacious goals for new projects, scaled up projects, new activities and new forms of communication. Day one finished and we were exhausted…
Day Two dawned hot and bright on the Miami coast and we started the final sessions reporting back to the other working groups about our plans – and starting to link the dots between the activities that both Building Evidence and Best Practice were planning. Things took shape. Comments were made, plans were set.
One of the last sessions was the Lightning Talks – a set of ten 5 minute talks from different members of the GGGI community. From gear recovery projects to working with developing countries, the logistics of gathering and storing ghost gear picked up at sea and what needs to be considered when transporting it for recycling – each person whizzed through their 5 minutes.
I was delighted to be reporting with Natalie Barefoot from CetLaw about the work we had both undertaken with WCA over the past year – from the interns who travelled to work with whale watching groups to educate visitors on the issues with ghost gear to the Ghost Gear Chandelier we made earlier in 2016 and exhibited at the Clerkenwell Design Week in May. The link-up between WCA and the Brighton Etsy group was also presented, along with the wonderful Lulu by Designosaur – one of my most treasured pieces of jewellery.
It was also great to see the range of products that are currently made from recovered ghost gear – either in an unprocessed form, or as a raw material in a mini pop-up exhibition. From Econyl based recycled nylon swimwear to door mats, bracelets and of course, Bureo, who were showing their skateboards and sunglasses. I was rather taken with their Yuco glasses…
A final sum up and we were done. It was great to be invited to be part of such a great group of pro-active people and we cannot wait to get going with the work we have got as part of our WCA / GGGI Replicating Solutions working group activities…
Last week, we headed up to the London Design Festival to have a general ferret about, catch up with people, meet new people and find interesting circular economy based design. This week, we will be featuring some of our favourite finds from the festival, starting today at the London Design Fair with the marine litter artworks of Ella Robinson…
Well, it was inevitable wasn’t it? Given the studio focus on marine litter and all things plastic, it was no great surprise that we came across the beautiful work of Ella Robinson in the British Craft Pavilion. Hailing from Brighton originally, Ella works with constructed / multi media textiles and has a specialism in found objects.
Bright and vibrant, the pieces, which juxtaposed clean white frames or found driftwood with synthetic plastics, stood out brilliantly. Arranged by size, shape or colour, the pieces featured artefacts that had been beachcombed from around the UK – from the plastics to the driftwoods, which were paired with eye poppingly bright plastic ‘threads’.
Smaller pieces featured embroidery and logos and were certainly beautiful, but it was the larger, marine litter based pieces which grabbed our attention. Unsurprisingly. *ahem*
check out Ella’s website for more information, and to purchase her work.
Many of us are very used to solving problems with a few clicks of the mouse. So when the temperature rises, fans and air conditioning units are purchased and plugged in around the globe, delivering cool air to make like a bit more bearable. But what if you can’t do this? What if you live in a hot country but do not have the means to ask Amazon to deliver you a fan, or indeed, the electricity to plug it into. This is the case for thousands of people across the globe. But there is something that could help, and could be made wherever it is needed – an air conditioning unit made from plastic bottles, called the Eco Cooler.
Using no electricity at all, the Eco Cooler, developed by Ashis Paul at Grey Dhaka works by funnelling the hot air from outside through the narrow neck of the bottle, compressing the air and cooling it – for example – breathe on your hand and it feels hot. Blow on your hand and it feels cool. It’s the same, very low tech method.
And of course, as we write about a great deal here on The Ecospot, plastic bottles can be found literally in all corners of the planet. Using them, or even reusing them as in the Eco Cooler is a very good idea indeed.
Mounted on a piece of waste board, this incredibly simple addition can lower the internal temperature by over 5 degrees – with no electricity required. In just 3 months, over 25,000 have been installed – many from the free downloadable plans available to all.
As we mentioned last week, we took a little trip recently to the rather glorious city of Barcelona, where we spied some fantastic products made from the waste of the city. Last Thursday we looked at the recycled banner wallets and bags of Vaho, and today we are looking at Barcelona Paper, who (aptly) create gorgeous little utility styled notebooks from recycled paper.
Created by a group of ‘professionals from the paper world (manufacturers, printers, bookbinders and creatives) who are worried about the environment’, Barcelona Paper works in collaboration with the city council in Barcelona to capture and reprocess the waste paper into new products.
With around 3 million people living and working in Barcelona (plus the tourists – like us), that is a stack of paper waiting to be reutilised. And with each of the products in the Barcelona Paper range being guaranteed to be 100% recycled and created from the city waste you know that you are helping to create a dent by purchasing one of the notebooks.
We could not think of better gifts to bring back for people.
Coming in a range of different sizes and formats, the range is also available with both plain kraft and bright over printed covers in block colour or typographic patterns. Plus, they are pretty reasonable too – ranging from about €4 upwards.
So – visiting Barcelona? Hunt out the Barcelona Paper range in the Tourist Information centres, paper shops and artisan design shops. A great purchase to support a great initiative.
Fashion is often heralded as one of the biggest bad boys when it comes to wastefulness and a huge turnover of raw materials – telling us daily that the new thing is the best thing. Fashion moves quickly. The waste clothes soon follow. But not all fashion is created this way, and we were really interested to discover Finnish brand Tauko Design, who use reclaimed textiles in their collections.
Based on waste textiles from the service sector, Tauko Design takes lots of sheets (often waste from hospitals), dyes them in vibrant colours and completely transforms them into new items.
“In our creations, we show the minimalism of the Nordic design tradition as well as the coolness of the Finnish landscape. There is always a hint of Baltic humor in our garments; small colorful details that give them a unique edge. We love big pockets and guarantee that the clothes won’t limit anyone from biking, running, dancing or just having a rest. Each of our designs were made with passion and commitment, always keeping in mind to make them work for diverse occasions and various body types.
We want to keep it classy, yet make the day a brighter one!”
What is really interesting is that the intro quote from Tauko says absolutely nothing about reclamation, recycling or reuse. It’s just part of what they do.
Many people have a preconception that ‘sustainable fashion’ has a particular ‘look’. Hair shirt and sandals is the phrase that we often coin for this kind of preconception – that all sustainable products are somehow stuck in the 1970’s. But of course, sustainable fashion can be anything but. We are totally in love not only with the ethos of Tauko, but their stunning designs too.
Plastic. We speak about it a lot here on the Ecospot, which, for an eco design blog may first appear a bit odd. But it is one of the most prevalent materials on our planet, reaches to every corner of the globe, and despite being mostly derived from oil, is considered cheap and throwaway. It is possibly one of our biggest material and design challenges we have. So, our studio research is based around plastic a great deal, especially marine plastic. Plastic is precious and should not be a throwaway material – so we were really excited to see Precious Plastic launched by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens last week…
The culmination of over two years work, Precious Plastic aims to rethink our personal connections with the recycling of plastic. We are all very used to sticking plastic in our recycling bins and allowing our local authorities ship it on to recycling and reprocessing specialists, but we don’t do anything with it ourselves. We are divorced from the recycling process.
But instead of seeing plastic as ‘waste’ we could be thinking about it as a material ripe for recovery and reprocessing into new things. And let’s be honest, plastic waste is something we see floating around our streets and in our oceans no matter where we live. We certainly do not have a shortage of raw materials.
So what is Precious Plastic? Basically, Hakkens has designed a set of four, open source machines that mimic the types of large processing machinery used in plastic production but that use pieces of stuff that you can, again, find anywhere on the planet. Bits of old oven, old metal scraps, generic pieces that can be adapted to what you have.
Starting with a shredder to process your plastic, the three remaining machines allow you to DIY injection mould, extrude and compress your raw plastic to create a range of new forms. All open source with downloadable plans.
But as well as being a DIY project, Hakkens suggests that you could even set up your own mini design and make workshop using the system using recovered plastic and even ask people to bring their plastic to you, which you could repay with money or products.
As well as the hands-on and open source element of this project, we love the fact that Precious Plastic is exactly that – communicating the fact that this ‘throwaway material’ is everything but. It is precious and has a value. Imagine a world where all our waste had a value. That would be the first step towards a circular economy for sure.
Head over to Precious Plastic to learn more about the project, look at the videos, share the story and get involved.
It appears to be IKEA week here on the blog, but there were two launches that particularly caught our eye. Yesterday we were looking at the new indoor gardening kit being launched by the global behemoth, today we are looking at their Art Event 2016 – and one particular print and artist in particular that uses marine plastic…
Mandy Barker is a photographer based in Leeds who, like us, has become obsessed with the masses of plastic based marine litter that is accumulating in our global oceans. Her photographic print for IKEA features marine plastic recovered from across the world, brought together into one, circular mass.
“It gives the impression of a universe, an almost hidden world under the sea, using the accumulation of plastic debris you find there.”
We find this a really poignant choice for IKEA. Whilst they do have a forward thinking sustainability policy their use of plastic in their products is incredibly well known. Sure, plastic means colour and durability, but the cheap cost of the products on the shelves do not scream of a product to be kept and cherished long term. Were there any IKEA derived marine plastics in the image we wonder.
Of course, once a product has left the stores it is up to us what happens to it – we hold the responsibility as the users, but even still, we think this marine plastic print by Mandy Barker speaks volumes.
Is this IKEA facing the responsibility for the impact of it’s products through it’s prints? Who knows.
But if this marine plastic print raises more of an awareness of this huge global issue, then that can only be good. We may even get one ourselves for the studio.
Morning in any large town or city. The streets, buses and trains are full of people winding their way sleepily to work. Needing a perk, many are carrying a take away cup of coffee from their preferred shop. The white and green of Starbucks, the maroon of Costa, the blue of Cafe Nero. Slurping down the last of the buzzy caffeine and soothing froth, the plastic lidded cups are deposited in street bins, office bins and recycling bins alike. The day begins. A typical day which sees over 2.5 billion take away coffee cups discarded in the UK each year…
2.5 billion. That is a lot of paper cups and plastic lids. ‘But!’ I hear you cry, ‘they are recycled?’. Unfortunately, it is reported by Simply Cups, the UK’s only cup recycling service, that only 1 in 400 cups are actually recycled. And because the paper cups are actually coated on the inside by a very thin layer of polyethylene to enhance their coffeeproof qualities, they are not able to be recycled through normal means. If anything, they can contaminate otherwise recyclable batches of material – in circular economy terms – a monstrous hybrid of fused materials.
One alternative is to ditch the take away cups altogether and use your own take away cups which can be reused again and again, like the Keep Cup. We are avid users of our Keep Cups, and are now in the habit of taking them pretty much everywhere with us. It is not a hassle as the sizes are barista standard, and many places offer a discount if you use your own cup. Quite often this is not advertised, but is automatic. But this week, Starbucks publicly announced such an initiative, which from April, will mean a 50p discount on your bill if you use your own take away cup. If this is ‘successful’ (and we are not sure exactly how this is being measured), it will be rolled out in more stores as a permanent feature.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who has been running Hugh’s War On Waste, has been quoted as saying this is a ‘seismic leap’ from Starbucks, which could begin a real behaviour change.
Of course, this is certainly great news, but do we need to take this further to create real behaviour change? Should the take away coffee cup be taxed in the same way as the plastic bag – and would this actively encourage people to take their own cups for refilling? What if we had to pay an extra 50p to get a disposable take away cup as well as getting a discount if we used our own?
Because the actual material in the 2.5 billion take away coffee cups that are landfilled each year is huge. And it needs to be redirected back into the system as we move to a more circular economy, and of course, reduced.
One thing about being a designer is that you are continually researching and noticing stuff. Everywhere. We barely switch off. Which is why last week, whilst in the mountains snowboarding, something caught my eye… Someone was sitting at a bar at 2300m above sea level with a jacket sporting the universal ‘recycling’ logo. Then I saw another. And another. Picture Organic Clothing was all over the mountain on snowboarders and skiers of all ages. I was very excited indeed and became quite a Picture spotter over the six days.
So, why was I so excited? Picture, who were founded in France in 2008, are the forerunners of truly sustainable snow / surf / skate wear – making all their kit from recycled or recovered or organic raw materials, from cottons to polyesters. Whilst many brands do use some recycled or even organic content, this is often a bit of lip-service to the ‘eco’ section of their brand. With Picture, it is their whole brand.
And I was also excited because of the volumes of people I saw wearing it. Often ‘eco’ products are hailed as being ‘for all’ yet actually target a very niche set of people, be it aesthetically or cost wise. Picture proudly display their credentials literally on their sleeves, but even through the style is very distinct (bold and geometric), there is no stereotypical wearer. They sit very stylishly on the mountain. Picture products are responsible and desirable.
They are also comparable cost wise to other brands, so the sometimes argument of responsible products being out of the price range of consumers also does not apply. Yes, we are talking about a lot of money for a jacket (in three figures), but any good quality snowboard jacket will set you back this amount.
Of course, when we think about sustainable products, the best option is to keep what you already have, but it is fantastic that when it does come the time to replace it, you have the best possible option available – a well considered product made from recycled or reclaimed materials.
An interesting feature of some of the Picture products is also their inbuilt ‘second life’ features, such as rucksacks that can be cut apart at the end of their usable life and transformed by the owner into everything from pencil cases to laptop bags.
As well as encouraging reuse through this ‘second-life’ option, Picture jackets also feature internal sections that are made from the offcuts of the making process, minimising wastage of precious materials on the factory floor. And if a piece of apparel does truly end it’s life, then Picture will take it into their own recycling system for recovery, reuse or donation. With a 95% same material content, the Welcome Jacket is the first 100% recyclable technical jacket on the market.
It is so great – and so exciting to see a brand that cares deeply, and is really thinking through the issues with truly sustainable apparel design. It is even more exciting to see it going from strength to strength and being adopted on a huge scale. People really do care.
So – when my current kit runs out, guess what brand’s kit I will be wearing as I hammer down the slopes on my board?
Over the past few years, we have seen a distinct transition from what was formerly known as ‘eco design’ or ‘green design’ into a much more complete and all encompassing term – circular economy design. This takes into account the different veins of truly sustainable design, from material specification and design for disassembly to remanufacture, reassembly and supply chain issues. It is the way of designing that we have to transition towards globally – ending the typical take / make / use / discard mantra that flows in most of our products today. And given that up to 80% of a products environmental impact is decided at design stage (1), designers hold a great deal of both responsibility and opportunity to create change.
This is how we think as designers at Claire Potter Design – we know that each of our decisions hold a huge amount of implications to our projects, our clients and ultimately our environments, so we take steps at each stage to ensure that we are working as closely within a circular economy remit as possible.
So, it was brilliant that in 2012 we discovered The Great Recovery Project – an RSA project that was seeking to understand the impact of circular economy design, how it could be implemented and how to see the opportunities. We became avid followers of the research and took part in many of the workshops – investigating all aspects of this growing area.
Many of this research has fed into our own studio work, as well as the role I play as an educator – namely in the 12 week module I wrote and deliver to the final year Product Design students at the University of Sussex – ‘the role of Design in the Circular Economy’.
So four years on and launched this week, the Great Recovery is now looking back at what has been discovered and learnt about the circular economy, and how design, making and manufacture plays a critical role. This is all now available in a free to download report available here. (and there are a couple of quotes from me in there too, and I am most honoured to be quoted too!)
Circular Economy Design is the future. And we need to get there as soon as we can.
(1) Sophie Thomas, Director of Design at The RSA and the Great Recovery Project
In the latest of our events, we are delighted to announce that we are supporting Surfers Against Sewage and Parley for the Oceans for the Big Spring Beach Clean 2016. We will be leading the Hove Beach Clean on Sunday 10th April, starting at 10am on the beach behind the King Alfred Leisure Centre in Hove. (we know the poster says the 11th – 17th, but that weekend clashes with the Brighton Marathon, so we are starting early!)
We will be scanning and removing from the beaches all pieces of plastic, netting and general rubbish for two hours, and we would love you to join us from 11am if you are about! Just turn up.
So why do we think, as designers, that this is something we need to be involved with?
Well, we have spoken repeatedly here on The Ecospot about the issues with marine litter, plastic and ghost gear netting – including our most recent project in association with the World Cetacean Alliance which resulted in our Ghost Gear Chandelier.
And given that there is an estimated 40 million pounds of plastic floating about in the North Pacific alone – and every piece of plastic, unless we have incinerated it, is still on the earth, this is a huge environmental and health issue for both the oceans and us, as the ingested plastic travels up the food chain. From a designers point of view, this is a huge, barely tapped resource of possible raw materials. This is what really excites us.
So, as well as cleaning up the beaches to reduce the impact of marine litter on both wildlife and humans, the Surfers Against Sewage Big Spring Beach Clean is this year being run in association with Parley for the Oceans, who will be recovering the bagged litter for reuse and recycling. As part of our own studio research, we will also be recovering some of the plastic and ghost netting for use in some exciting projects we have in the pipeline – using the Parley A.I.R. strategy of Avoid, Intercept, Redesign.
We will be releasing more news in the coming weeks about just what we are doing with this plastic we are recovering – and where you can see the resulting pieces and our current research results…
And we would love you to join us for the Big Spring Beach Clean – if you are available on Sunday 10th April from 11am – 1pm, pop down to the Hove seafront with a sturdy set of gloves and get involved. Look out for me – I’ll be in this t-shirt!
Any questions – give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been rather involved in all things plastic recently, from our Ghost Gear Chandelier for the World Cetacean Alliance to specifying recycled plastic cladding in both a residential project and cafe project in the last month. We are keen to use recycled or recovered plastic in our projects, so it was great when we were given the tip off (thank you Pollie) on this brilliant Plastic Bottle Cutter which is currently gaining backing on Kickstarter…
Created very simply, the Plastic Bottle Cutter is a tool to allow the continuous ‘shredding’ of a plastic bottle into as long a ‘thread’ as possible. You can even vary the thickness of the new plastic thread to suit your own project requirements.
We have seen a couple of people with their own diy versions of this sort of tool, but it is the first time that we have ever seen an actual, purpose created tool that everyone can purchase.
So, what can you actually do with a long length of plastic thread?
Well, you can knot it, weave it or even (as we have seen previously) wind it around a joint and melt it together. This may seem rather destructive, but as you are not adding anything into the plastic, then when your item is finished with, despite being melted, it can be cut off and recycled.
It would be great to see someone create a tool like this that can be used to transform waste plastic into a kind of filament for a 3D printer…
So – fancy a plastic bottle cutter? Get over to Kickstarter, where the Plastic Bottle Cutter project has already smashed it’s target of 8,000 euros, (as I write, it is at 117,000 euros). A nice little addition to our studio’s hack kit we reckon. Check out their video below for more info.
Back in late 2016, we had a family and friend pledge – to only purchase items for each other at Christmas that we had found Locally, Handmade, or Secondhand. It was a roaring success, and the LHS Challenge was born. So, for 2016, we are planning on only buying items within this scope – with a rather large emphasis on the secondhand. As avid charity shoppers, this is not an issue for us, and so far so good…
And here is a little recap of what we have found so far…
From a vintage army trekking backpack though many books to old pieces of Lego that will be made into necklaces and woolly jumpers – we have found some brilliant pieces.
But of course, buying things Local, Handmade or Secondhand is great, but is it better than not buying anything at all? We read, and admire people who are operating a no purchase policy for the year, but we know that we are unable to do that. We wear and use things until they cannot be repaired (and we are awesome fixers), but there are occasions when you do have to get something. We love the thrill of the hunt when you are looking for something secondhand, and the excitement of finding it. Or the rush of creativity when you find something you can change about a bit to be perfect.
Take, for example, this camo jacket and grey jumper. I had been looking for an old camo jacket for a while, and even though you can readily get them online, I wanted to find one that fitted nicely and had a good bit of wear.
I had been searching for a long time, but that is fine. One day, as is the way with the world, the perfect one arrived. For a fiver. And it is this sense of anticipation rather than instant gratification which makes this way of consuming much more fulfilling. I wanted a camo jacket, but I did not NEED it now. When the right one was there, I bought it, rather than ‘making do’ with a new one from the High Street, and I LOVE it.
This ties in interestingly with the latest rise of decluttering pioneered by Marie Kondo – creator of the KonMari Method, who states that you should only keep items that you love and the rest should be (responsibly) discarded. This is great for charity shops as long as the items donated are actually of good quality – crap fashion worn for a few times and donated has little value.
So this is the quandary – we like to ‘consume’, but we need to do so responsibly. Buying good quality stuff from charity shops and donating the stuff we no longer love is one way forward.
Since December 2015, we have been working on a very lovely project for the World Cetacean Alliance, as part of a group of artists and designers responding to their ‘Untangled’ brief – a project to highlight the hugely destructive issues with ghost gear. This abandoned, discarded or lost netting, rope and filament floats about our oceans across the globe, maiming and killing marine life of all sizes, and as it is usually plastic based, the material never truly degrades.
So, we have been collecting Ghost Gear from the beaches of Brighton, to create what we dubbed our Ghost Gear Chandelier – a large bubble formed light that was inspired by the ‘bubble netting’ hunting technique of some humpback whales.
Netting was found, washed, dried, washed again, washed a third time, dried again and then shredded and put into clear plastic bubbles…
And now the Ghost Gear Chandelier is done.
The Chandelier uses a salvaged bike wheel for the main ring, with a variety of Ghost Gear filled bubbles hanging in a cascade of blues, greens and oranges.
The central point of light is a huge clear ball eco-filament light from Factorylux, connected to a bright blue fabric cable flex and wall plug. Hanging from chains at a height of around 1600mm, the Ghost Gear Chandelier is quite a statement- and we are delighted with it.
So what now for the light? Well, as part of the Untangled project by the World Cetacean Alliance, each piece of work created by the designers and artists taking part will be auctioned off to raise funds for the issues raised by ghost gear – which includes our Ghost Gear Chandelier. Watch this space for details on the auction and also, keep your eyes peeled for our little film, which will show the making of the Ghost Gear Chandelier…