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The price of ecology. Design, myths and escaping to Mars
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Estimated reading time
5 Minutes

The price of ecology. Design, myths and escaping to Mars

Let’s go the long way round: let’s start with Mars. Do you know who Carl Sagan was? He’s considered one of the most renowned astronomers, astrochemists and popularizers of science of the past century. On the red planet, an asteroid and a valley are named after him as well as Nasa’s Mars Pathfinder lander. He wrote the so-called Sagan criteria for life (beyond planet Earth of course) and he also received a Pulitzer prize and an Isaac Asimov Award.

Yes, Carl was a Space Expert and Enthusiast with capital letters, of asteroids and Mars, with a passion for human life on another planet – and also for non-human life on other planets, but this is not the story we are going to tell you this time.

Well, you ought to know that Carl Sagan was also a careful ecologist, who supported the ecosystem we know as Planet Earth. So, even an expert such as he was didn’t find an easy solution: ecology is really an important subject for us.

Timber and myths from the ecological era

In January 1969, Life Magazine devoted its first page to epoch-making changes: photos from space and a statement: the Ecological Era had begun. Did it really happen?

Without a doubt, awareness rapidly increased but, as we learn from expert on sustainable design Leyla Acaroglu, we have nurtured a sort of environmental folklore: we act on the basis of environmental myths.

Most of the things, the waste that we produce, end up in landfill. Landfill is a different environment. In landfill, those same carbon molecules [...] become methane, and methane is a 25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So our old lettuces and products that we have thrown out that are made out of biodegradable materials, if they end up in landfill, contribute to climate change.
Leyla Acaroglu

This is true especially with regard to those materials we consider natural, non-polluting. An example in design? Although we have great technology for recycling timber, the natural material par excellence, no one ever thinks of having a special bin for this purpose. So, every year, millions of tons of timber are simply turned into waste which when piled up releases methane. Just like the floppy lettuce forgotten at the back of the fridge.

Nomad chair
Lilly's chair
Correlations bench

Is plastic better? That is not the issue

During a recent interview, Stefano Giovannoni – a designer who in the nineties promoted the extensive use of plastics in the products of well-known brands like Alessi – was irritated when it was suggested that all types of plastic were hazardous waste. Stefano Giovannoni, aside from highlighting the importance of a product’s life cycle just like Leyla Acaroglu, has stated:

The fact that plastics are discarded in the environment is a question of civic responsibility, and it’s no fault of plastics themselves.
Stefano Giovannoni

It’s annoying, but we have to admit he’s right. The same is true for wood. In that case, ecology doesn’t exist without enlightened manufacturers, but without consumer awareness the manufacturer’s efforts come to nothing.

Read my interview with Stefano Giovannoni
What’s hidden behind a rabbit? The King Midas of design opens his doors to LOVEThESIGN.
Killer umbrella stand
Killer umbrella stand
Killer umbrella stand

What’s the rumour being spread about metal?

The same rules, more or less, apply to metal: it depends on how it’s manufactured, its life cycle, simplicity and the desire to recycle it. But there’s a huge advantage: it’s relatively easy to keep its original qualities intact – there are many similar types of plastic being sold and this makes recycling metal difficult.

However, recycled metal is a top quality product and relatively widespread. This is also confirmed by the renowned French brand Fermod, known for its café chairs, which hasn’t hesitated to embark on an ecological venture: 100% recycled and recyclable raw materials, powder paints with no solvents or risks for the environment and the health of both workers and consumers. Fermod employs a special process which helps to lower oven temperatures by 10 degrees, resulting in a 30% energy saving.

Read Fermob: ecofriendly design
Halfway between pop and bistrot: recycled steel and aluminium for bright coloured chairs.

The same environmentalist approach also motivates Brabantia, who have created a whole range of items which have received a Cradle to Cradle Bronze certificate. This testifies to the innocuous nature of the materials and of the way they are used, that renewable energy is employed during production, that carbon monoxide is being disposed of appropriately, but also that water is not wasted and that the brand promotes social equity What’s more, Brabantia is also an official partner of The Ocean Cleanup foundation.

Then, Lovemae has gone for bamboo, paints which don’t harm the environment and above all entirely biodegradable products. So, if there’s a will, there’s a way. Because, actually, being aware is what’s important, not to be taken in by environmental folklore and to make a choice – even if it’s at a cost. Because, unless making that certain choice is not more common, more widespread, it will inevitably be costly. In every way.

SortGo double 12-litre rubbish bin
SortGo 12-litre rubbish bin
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