Animal-gran leather has permeated the car interior world for decades now. As cloth became a stereotypical cheaper option when buying a car, leather has become synonymous with luxury and money.
However, I’ve always had animus towards animal-grain anything for some time now. And I’ve actually been hearing quite a few people – in my design field and outside – state the same opinion. Leather is overrated.
The quality of materials, especially paired with the level of technology and application processes today, now have the ability to change the opinions of the general population too. I’m not saying leather doesn’t have its place inside of a car, but with special attention to detail, like the wool blend in the Range Rover Velar in the above photo, luxury can start to change.
Audi has started to create carbon-neutral materials for some concept interiors. And the projected price difference between the normal leather and these new innovative materials? There is none.
How cool is it that companies are starting to blend eucalyptus fibers and even mushroom compounds into their lineup?? I think it’s incredible. Check out this article if you want to read more!
One of the largest furniture brands in the world has made it their mission to cut down on packaging waste. I had written a post several weeks ago about IKEA – and my love for the company as a whole – and it makes me so happy to see this. Now, the article I had found was from about 6 months ago, and I haven’t been to an actual store of theirs in that time frame. So I can’t back up my findings just yet. But let me get to it: packaging made of mushrooms.
Sounds kind of freaky. But also really really cool. The process goes something like this:
agricultural byproducts such as husk, oat hulls and cotton burrs, are pressed into a desired shape that can fit around items to be packaged. Then, it is seeded with mushroom spores that sprout mycelium (a root structure) after a few days. The mycelium threads rapidly through the structure and binds it together to form a shock-resistant and durable packaging material. The last step is to heat-treat the material to kill spores in order to arrest further growth of the fungus.
I recently posted about different plastic and their processes. So as someone who knows the basics on that, I find it extremely fascinating reading the above information. I can imagine this might take a lot longer to make (who knows how rapidly mushroom spores actually grow; I’ll have to research that another time) than a typical injection molded piece. But as an alternative to styrofoam – which is ungodly terrible for the environment – it’s a huge step in the right direction.
As a small tangent, if you’re interested in learning about a young boy who recently invented a way to recycle styrofoam, then watch this short TED talk! Super cool.
So, besides the biodegradable factor, what are the benefits to mushroom packaging? Here’s a few Medium listed:
It uses only 12% of the energy used in plastic production.
It produces 90% less carbon emissions than produced during plastic manufacture.
The total amount of carbon dioxide component in atmosphere remains almost undisturbed by growing fungi-based packaging. Fungi uses up carbon dioxide that gets incorporated into the packaging material. On disposal, packaging material gets decomposed or composted and returns the carbon dioxide back into the soil.
It decomposes with 30–90 days. Even if it is ingested by organisms, it has no dangerous side effects, although it has no nutritional benefits either.
Alternative packaging is a lucrative economic avenue. The global market for sustainable packaging is poised to reach more than US $142 billion in coming years. Presently, bio-plastics and green materials just constitute 1% of total packaging market share, so there is immense growth potential for manufacturers in this segment.
Rural communities can benefit financially by supplying agricultural wastes to mycelium manufacturers.
Hopefully this becomes a lot more accessible to companies worldwide. As IKEA sets the new standard for packaging, I’m curious to see what comes next!
The most recent shoe release from adidas sports a brand new cyclical business model. Their 4 step process (shown above) takes old shoes that are sent back from consumers to 1) be cleaned, 2) ground up, 3) melted down, and then 4) reformed.
Plastic is extremely hard to recycle. For those that aren’t familiar with plastic processing, there are two distinct types: thermoset and thermoplastic. The basic information you need to know is that thermoplastics can be melted and reformed, whereas thermosets (hence the name) remain set in a physical state (aka no melting, they just burn). So although most companies have a great ambition to fully recycle, it’s extremely difficult to do so.
Even within the thermoplastics range, you have multiple forms. If you’ve never looked at the bottom of a plastic part, go to your kitchen cupboard and pick a piece of tupperware up. Within the recycle symbol stamped in the bottom, there is a number. Those numbers range from one to seven. Look at this website if you want to see the distinct breakdowns for those sections.
Because each plastic is typically pretty unique in composition, remelting and reprocessing is very tedious and costly. Adidas has figured out a pure plastic process that can be optimized to reduce waste and take full advantage of the benefits of a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). According to their webpage for the launch (check it out here), they state over 91% of plastic throughout the world is not recycled. I’m not surprised. As someone who has been around plastics more than the average person (hi dad), I’m well aware of how much effort and time it takes.
So, for adidas – especially as a company as large and global as it is – to promise recyclability within its own structure, I think it’s a great initiative. Here’s a wonderful video showcasing the process of it all. Quite honestly, this completely blows my mind. A wonderful design and a monumental shift in changing the way we consume.
Drones have – for the most part – been partitioned to the sky. But drone-like robots have been existing and thriving on land (and in water) for years. Insert RanMarine’s WasteShark. This drone is like a roomba for the water.
It sucks up garbage in marina areas in Dubai and several European countries at the moment. Take a look at the video below for more details!
I recently saw a video (watch it here!) that had featured an organization out of San Fransisco that is using human hair to clean up oil spills. The company, Matter of Trust, has been operating for several years now, and has received donations of thousands of pounds of hair to date.
Now, I don’t know a lot about oil spills, but their site has quite a bit of educational material (they even donate mats and booms to schools for student experiments) on their products. The photo above shows a boom. This is a recycled nylon that is then stuffed with hair. Matter of Trust is sent all kinds of hair – human, dog, cat, alpaca, etc; short, long, and any length in between. Hair has a special property companies have only been able to mimic synthetically. It is porous, so oil can be soaked up, but it also is almost entirely hydrophobic, shedding water at an incredible rate.
It is also completely natural and sustainable which is an amazing bonus. There are over 80,000 hair salons and more than 100,000 pet groomers in the United States alone. This company is donated all kinds of hair, which they then process into their products. There are several thousands oil spills each year, all ranging in size and deadliness.
Here is a short video in which this company demonstrates the effectiveness of a hair boom:
It’s wonderful to see companies like this take such a seemingly overlooked material and create something so influential. Check out all of their videos here!
They way we consume goods has completely changed in the past few decades. I’ve written a couple of blog posts about delivery systems and how our mailing means have grown exponentially. You can order something online with one click, and have it on your door step the next day.
The simplicity of everything has become dangerous quite honestly. I don’t think about ordering things online as much as I do in person. I’ve gotten particularly good at making sure I walk around a store at least once with a potential item to make sure I reaaaaaaally need it. Nine times out of ten, within a half-loop of a store, I put that item back. I mean in grocery stores, the layouts of the aisles are purposefully designed to make you spend more money (it’s actually really interesting if you want to read more). I’ve been able to get better with that too, now that I know. Especially feeding one person; I can’t buy that 24 pack of chicken at Costco because dear goodness, I’d never be able to get through that before it goes bad.
But with online shopping, I find I’m all too eager to get that new thing. I’ve paid for subscription boxes before, because I find if I set aside $10 per month for that sample-filled box, I don’t go out of my way to browse for the full size products that will eat at my funds. Now, I’ve stopped doing the subscriptions, despite how much I’ve loved them (it’s a nice surprise every other month since I tend to forget about their arrival).
So where does that bring me to the Milkman theory? I’ve seen several companies recently edit the subscription phenomena that seems to be plaguing all of us. Myro is a great example. They specialize in natural deodorant: delivered to your door, Milkman style. Your first time order you get a case with refillable contents. Every time you start to run out of your deodorant, order a refill (you can even make it automatic if you know your sweating patterns), and boom, it’s at your door.
We’ve seen subscriptions like this before. I have friends who swear by Dollar Shave Club. They’re whole premise is just like the company’s above. Buy a razor the first time, get sent razor heads whenever you need them.
Now, you may ask, “Sydney, how is this anything like the home milk delivery system that you mentioned previously?” Let me tell you! Back in the god-forsaken olden days (hi mom and dad), there used to be a thing called a Milkman. He’d deliver milk to your front door, packaged up in glass bottles. Once you used the milk, you’d put those glass bottles back on the porch. The good wholesome (no pun intended) Milkman would then pick up those bottles, and start the process all over again. Today, we have fancy packaging and apps that do the hard logistic parts for us, but the fundamentals are the same.
Like a few recent posts, this system revolves around the mission to cut packaging waste as much as possible. Every single item we buy is in one-use packaging. It’s not a revolutionary model by any means, but in a day and age where companies want consumers to buy, buy, buy all the time, it’s nice to know they have values that reflect the new (or would it be old?) way of doing business.
One billion toothpaste tubes are thrown out every year. One billion! I sound like Trump. “Oneee biiiiilllionn.” Sorry, that was terrible humor.
Anyways, I saw an interesting Facebook ad today. I usually don’t scroll through social media all that much anymore. But, I actually got sucked into an advertisement. Clever folks.
Bite is a sustainable toothpaste brand that has eradicated plastic from their entire lineup. Their toothpaste is actually in small tablet form. Here’s a closeup:
The How To steps on their website instruct you to 1) bite down on the tablet, 2) start brushing with a wet toothbrush, and 3) smile and watch it foam up like magic. Now, I’ve never been a religious flosser, and believe me, my dentist has told me I have great teeth (despite me not always brushing twice a day). So, I’m not the best person to be giving advice in the oral hygiene department. But, like my recent post about the plastic-free shampoo company, this company has made it their personal mission to try and balance out the plastic epidemic plaguing the world right now.
I definitely don’t think about the tubes of toothpaste I use. I just Googled it, and the average person goes through about 3 tubes per year. For some reason that seems like a small amount, but when you add up all of your toiletries, that plastic piles up. It’s strange how the smallest, most mundane things in your life are the ones that sometimes matter the most.
Reading the reviews on Bite’s website, a lot of people were saying it’s strange for the first few uses. I can’t imagine chomping down on a dry pill, and then having to brush these weird bits around in my mouth. And despite all of that, it really intrigues me. Some of these companies have brilliant ideas and really stick to their guns. It’s also cool because their tablets come in small glass vials, which can be repurposed in so many different ways.
There’s a part of me that thinks, “I’m perfectly content with my habits right now.” But then another part of me realizes that a company like this is supposed to make people uncomfortable. Habits should be continuously reevaluated. We should constantly be looking at ourselves and seeing how to improve. We do that enough in our school, work, emotional states, dating life, etc. Why don’t we do that for brushing our teeth? I don’t have the answer since I’m clearly part of the problem. But I’m willing to start looking at my routines now. I think, even without actually buying a product from the company, it’s a small success in their eyes.
I recently blogged about new strides in the world of packaging. In that post I had briefly discussed a few companies that had designed their packaging as product enhancement or as a new product sector altogether. I believe packaging of the future will go in two different directions: packaging as a product or the complete elimination of single-use packaging.
Personal care is one of the most overlooked areas in our lives when it comes to sustainability. The amount of product the average person uses in a year – toothpaste, toilet paper, lotion, skin care, shampoo/conditioner, the list goes on and on – is unbelievable. The average person is said to use 3-4 tubes of toothpaste a year; shampoo and conditioner, about 12 bottles for the average person. Now think of all the plastic. Each bottle, tube, dispenser, thrown out over and over again.
I know I personally haven’t thought about my container graveyard recently. It doesn’t seem like all that much – until you do the math. I stumbled upon the company Nohbo today, and I’m blown away. They created the first single-use, plastic-free shampoo Drop. You can see the detergent looking pods in the photo above or the sketches below.
To use the product, you run the pod under water in the shower for a few seconds and the water-soluble casing dissolves, leaving you with the shampoo ready to use. How cool, right?!
Now, me being the Devil’s Advocate more often than not, I figured, “Wow this is all good and dandy, but I bet those drops are shipped in a single-use, throw-away packaging that completely defeats the purpose of all this cool stuff.” Turns out, yes they have packaging. But no, it’s not plastic. The external packaging is completely biodegradable, plant-based sugarcane resin. Not sure how that works, but their scientists have figured out some amazing stuff. So I’m very happy to say my fears were eradicated.
The company’s website has a lot of information, so I highly recommend checking it out. It says online they will be releasing conditioner, body wash, etc. sometime this year. I’m really tempted to buy some and experience it for myself. People are amazing.
I’ve had my favorite pair of Chucks for almost 9 years now. So you could say I’m pretty loyal. But, I’ve recently started buying other sneakers. And I won’t say it doesn’t pain me to cheat on my worn-in classics, but man, there’s some cool stuff out there in the sneaker world that’s hard to resist.
Adidas had announced a few months ago, their goal to reach 100% recycled material usage for all of their shoes and clothes by 2024. This was a huge undertaking not only for a company that large, but by a brand that is so iconic and well-loved. When someone says recycled or sustainable, there is a small part in each of us that doubts a product’s ability to perform the same as a non-green one.
The green initiatives by large companies might not have to be as ambitious as Adidas’ however. Take Nike’s upcoming summer launch: The Plant Color Collection.
All dyes for these shoes will be completely plant-based. Sounds stupidly simple – and it is. But sometimes the simplest ideas can be the most stunning. Not only do the preview photos show a particular craft-like feel to the designs, but I think it is starting to transform the way we even consume shoes.
There has always been an animus towards the fashion world for its fast-paced trends and this undying need to have the next best thing, right away. More often that not, these fads fade quickly, leaving consumers with piles of usually unused and out-of-fashion pieces. So how do these shoe launches change that?
To me, it signifies that the long-term vision we see fashion companies often disregard, is being reversed. I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about this, and quite honestly, I’m glad it isn’t blowing up. When something goes viral, the integrity and oftentimes the real soul of a product or movement disappears. It’s the cool thing to do, so everybody hop on the popular train.
Adidas and Nike show us that these sustainability goals are meant to provoke long-term conversations. Yes, some could argue that as money-making businesses, if they don’t keep churning out new designs and pushing their products on consumers, they’ll stop making money. But it gives me hope, knowing certain creative people are thinking of big ideas, and making something meaningful because of it.
Following my current blogging, sustainability kick this week, I’m featuring a company called Graviky Labs. Based in Bangalore, India, this team of scientists and industrial designers are creating ink out of air pollution particles.
Yes, you read that correctly. Let me say it again: making ink…out of pollution.
How fascinating, right? I’m not a chemist by any means, so I’m not sure how they actually make it work. But let me break it down for the lay people out there. They produced a can that fits over a car exhaust, which then filters the smoke, creating particles of ash, which are then combined with different solvents to make liquid ink. This ink can then be used by anyone – artists have obviously taken an interest, since it’s such a uniquely creative idea.
Of all the sectors of pollution, the discussion around air pollution is often dismissed. As physically visible problems – trash in the ocean, dumping of chemicals in undesignated areas, burning of chemicals unlawfully, etc – often trump the unseen, the air we breathe is very nearly forgotten about. But air pollution has been a large contributor to detrimental health problems over the past decade, specifically in Asia.
What really fascinates me is the language they use to describe the pollution, and eventual ink. Their range of markers currently includes a 0.7 mm and 2 mm round tip, a 15 mm chisel tip, and a 50 mm wide tip. Under each marker description they have specifications on the average time it takes to make the ink. For example, a 2mm round tip marker would take approximately 50 minutes of diesel car pollution to create enough particles for the product. How freaking interesting.
Their website clearly states that the main byproduct of fossil fuel burning, is soot. This soot either ends up in water sources or our lungs. They are trying to directly combat the eventual destination by designing a product that takes those particles, and makes something useful and utterly mesmerizing of them. Sure, the ink looks just like any other ink. But when you see someone describe “oh, I illustrated this poster with 100 hours worth of pollution,” it makes the gears in your head turn about a million miles a minute.
Check out the comprehensive video of the patent pending technology below. Enjoy!