Image credit: Nathalie Krag
Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword anymore. As anyone who watches the news will know, climate change isn’t part of some distant future but is happening right now. And as fashion designers start putting recycled materials on the runway, restaurants embrace native ingredients, businesses pick up on solar technology and hotels become conscious of the eco-traveller, it’s time for the design world to step up, too.
Abroad, designers like Rossana Orlandi and Bethan Gray are already ensuring their products are sustainability-focused. Closer to home, projects like Mirvac’s Marrick & Co. development (Australia’s first One Planet Living development, using brand new recycling technology to create bespoke furniture for its shared spaces) and Spence and Lyda’s Pet Lamp are paving the way to a more sustainable future. Designers are becoming switched on to the importance of being circular, and there’s never been a more important time as consumers to tap into this future of design.
We quizzed speakers at Design Canberra’s Object Subject Conference on how best we can make a difference. From asking questions to buying less and speaking with our vote, below six industry heavyweights give their number one tip to buying sustainable.
1. Buy direct
“It’s important for consumers to be well informed about ethically sourced materials and processes when buying sustainable furniture options, easily determined if buying directly from designers in Australia. There are other options as large companies such as Ikea are also investing heavily in ensuring sustainable materials and manufacturing are embedded in their business. This demonstrates their social responsibility, and it’s good for the environment but what is also interesting is that sustainable credentials are increasing sales. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of discarded furniture and products and will actively seek sustainable options when selecting furniture.” — Adrienne Erickson, Swayn Senior Fellow in Australian Design at National Museum of Australia
Image credit: Anson Smart
2. Buy less
“Buy as little as possible; and when buying, buy something you will need, love and use for a long time. As architect Glenn Murcutt AO says, the important thing about the longevity of a product is that it is worth keeping.” — Jana Perković, editor of Assemble Papers.
Image credit: Barbara Corsico
3. Ask questions!
“Ask questions: Where did the materials come from? Who made it? What steps were taken to replace the materials used? Be inventive and curious in your questions. Whoever can give the most convincing answers wins.” — Kevin Murray, managing editor of Garland Magazine and the Online Encyclopedia of Crafts in the Asia Pacific Region.
Image credit: Felix Forest
4. Seek out smaller suppliers
“The ability to understand or validate sustainable products, supply chains or ethical behaviours of suppliers or fabricators is often a real challenge, which we as design practitioners often find equally difficult to get across. The starting point is to review ethical standards, to know the material being used and to look for options which source renewable materials. For example, not from old growth forests. In addition, seeking out smaller, innovative and emerging practices and suppliers who may be experimenting with alternative materials. For instance, using waste or recycled materials. These are certainly some of the considerations that purchasers can begin to demand.” — Jefa Greenaway, director of Greenaway Architects and a lecturer at the University of Melbourne
5. Keep asking
“Most of the time we can be blinded and overwhelmed by the facts and figures surrounding products we’re purchasing. Ask questions about where the object was made, how it was made, how it can be recycled or reused and if there are any adhesives or coatings. The retailer should be able to inform you how toxic or non-toxic it is.” — Seetal Solanki, London-based founder and director of design studio Ma-t-ter and a visiting tutor on the Interior Design programme at the Royal College of Art.
Image credit: Valentina Sommariva
6. Vote for change
“I believe there is one over-arching action we have to take over and above all the details. We desperately need leadership, and yet it’s not really the leaders we should be berating over their lack of real commitment to a sustainable future. Unless we can persuade voters of the urgency around sustainability (economy, energy, water and therefore food and other vital resources), they will continue to vote for those who do not prioritise the most urgent issues. I absolutely support the embracing of diverse opinion and believe all should have a voice, but climate change is not a matter of opinion, rather a matter of scientific fact. Very little will change unless we consider new economic models no longer driven by outworn notions of ever-escalating growth and nineteenth/twentieth-century jobs which are, of necessity, being phased out. I don’t have the answers, but I crave the kind of leadership that will prioritise those urgent strategies for new models.” — Robyn Archer AO, Fine Arts Australia
Visit Design Canberra for details on the Object Subject Conference.