Green Design is an exciting natural spin-off of the drive towards a sustainable future. Today Bronwyn looks at the background to this development. Next time we start telling the stories of innovative green designers and their whacky items we’re all going to want in our homes and offices.
Green design is not a new buzzword, it is not a style or a trend. Fashions come and go, green design surpasses fleeting fads. It embraces the essential practice of moving away from the wasteful excesses of passing trends towards timeless and enduring objects and styles that don’t cost the earth.
Making the interior spaces of our homes and work areas comfortable and beautiful ads to the blanket of greenhouse gasses causing global warming. Our carbon footprint is not just caused by the petrol and electricity we use, but also the energy and resources that are poured into making and transporting the items that we buy and use in our homes and work areas. This is called the embedded energy of those items. Now is the time to be mindful of the implications of our purchasing decisions on the ecology and therefor the future.
Finishes, accessories and the fun stuff
There is a lot of information available about greening our homes and offices as far as energy, water and waste is concerned. An increasing number of home owners are mindful of decreasing their carbon footprints by reducing their electricity consumption, using water wisely, planting indigenous gardens and recycling their waste, but what about the rest? The finishes and furnishings, the accessories and the fun stuff?
Style, aesthetics and quality are not compromised with the use of sustainable materials and local manufacture. The awareness of the need for eco-conscious living has dramatically changed the design landscape. There is an exciting shift, exploring opportunities to use less and conserve more, while maintaining cutting edge design. Designers are showing fresh and new perspectives on ordinary every-day items and the materials they are made from. I feel a contagious new optimism in the design field, as beautiful, high quality, sustainable products are becoming available on our own streets. We will be looking at the growing range of stunning energy efficient light fittings made from the most improbable materials, exciting new ranges of non-toxic wall treatments and floor coverings, complete kitchens made from sustainable materials, new furniture, revitalized and repurposed furniture, fun and funky decorative items.
How do we know what to choose though, how do we know which products are sustainable, and to what degree? There are many shades of green and one cannot take manufacturers’ claims at face value. Ecospecifier, an online source of green product information, is the leading global specifier of sustainably developed and life-cycle assessed materials and products. It is not a general directory, but rather a categorization of products according to a green rating scheme. A most useful tool when enquiring after the eco credentials of a particular material or product. Our local building industry also uses the Green Star rating system.
Know your basic guidelines
Everyone needs to integrate a basic guideline of how to make the best green choices when out shopping for furnishings and accessories for our homes and offices.
Here are a few pointers:
- Local is lekker; source materials made in the immediate area, even from the same city or very close to it. Transportation incurs very heavy carbon footprints which will be avoided, and also the local community will gain support. Many designers use local skills to manufacture their products.
- The material the object is made of should preferably be from a sustainable source – timber, for instance, must be from a commercial forest with FSC certification, or made from a recycled waste item
- The product should have longevity and
- should be as maintenance free as possible.
- It should be non-toxic and free of ingredients that cause harmful emissions, like formaldehyde and aromatic solvents.
- At the end of it’s use, it should be recyclable. More than that, it should be recycled by your own waste removal system. If it is not currently recycled in your area, it benefits nobody that it’s recyclable in theory.
Bearing these few criteria in mind, one can go a long way towards ensuring a future where our interior spaces protect the earth rather than destroy it.
The state of our planet will always influence the way we live and think about design. We know that our local designers will continue to amaze us with their ideas, skills and creativity. We applaud these people who address social and environmental ills through their fields of design. Our future editions will put you in touch with many of these innovative souls. You will know where to find them and their objects of desire – the beautiful, functional and eco-conscious items that they create for us to use and enjoy in our living and working spaces.
By Bronwen Houghton