There are few activities that we take more seriously and with more grim-faced determination than shopping during the sales. For many, the apotheosis of this is manifest on what has come to be known asBlack Friday.
But when we pause to reflect, setting our alarms for 3am to be the first in line for the latest flat screen TV doesn’t always bring us the satisfaction we were hoping for. A number of the more spiritual voices in society point out that the reason is obvious. The notion of making ourselves feel better by purchasing material things (even with a 60% discount and a complimentary tote bag) is fundamentally misguided.
When we concentrate on buying a few, good quality, long-lasting items, we’re able to enjoy them far more intensely and free up more mental space to think about more important issues. When we buy easily repairable products that are intended to last a lifetime, we are not only doing something that is good for the environment but we are catering to our much deeper and enduring psychological needs for stability and simplicity.
Product designers ‘must reduce Pringles factor’ to boost recycling. Recycling Association chief cites crisp brand as one of worst examples of multiple materials being used in single product. Straws, shampoo sachets, crisp packets, coffee cup lids and food wrappers were all picked out by MacArthur as products that either could not be recycled because of the multiple layers of materials used, or were not traditionally recycled.
Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association, said the biggest problems came when multiple materials were used in the same packaging. In the case of Pringles, Ellin said: “What idiot designed this in terms of recyclability? We’ve got a cardboard tube, a metal bottom, a plastic lid. “The Pringles factor – right at the design stage, we’ve got to get that right. What we’re putting in our recycling bins has got to be recyclable. We’ve got to get away from the Pringles factor.” Ellin was also critical of Lucozade Sport and bottles with a similar design, where a recyclable bottle is enclosed in a sleeve made from a different type of plastic. He called the design the “No 2 villain”. “This bottle is so confusing to computer scanners that it has to be picked by hand off the recycling conveyor,” he said. “Then it often just gets chucked away.”
Italian furniture brand Visionnaire put on a city-wide showcase during this year’s Salone del Mobile, including an impressive booth at the Rho Fiera Milano. As well as the debut of the new collection, 2017 also marks the launch of a new sustainability programme that ensures all new products are made using materials with a low environmental impact.
Visionnaire is advertising “Sustainable Style”. All new products will follow an environmentally conscious approach. We read: ‘For instance, the wood we use for the construction of beds and sofa structures is supplied by companies that are part of certified production chains,’ director Eleonore Cavalli says. ‘The selected trees are cut at the correct age and then replanted. For suspension systems, we use jute webbing instead of elastic straps and petroleum-based materials.’ Similarly, upholstery fabrics are all woven from natural fibres such as flax, wool, cotton and ramie, and processed using only natural plant-based dyes and tints. For leather, chemical-heavy chrome tanning has been abandoned in favour of vegetable dyes.
Is this a change of direction with genuine intentions or a marketing strategy? Is this an honest new beginning towards sustainability or just an other case of “greenwashing”?
Scandinavian pieces produced in the 1950s and 1960s were made in factories like Carl Hansen & Son, Slagelse Mobelfabrik, CFC Silkeborge Mobelfabrik, etc. out of the best quality rosewood and old growth teak hardwoods. These pieces were handcrafted by artisans who had 20 to 30 years of cabinet making experience under their belts, and their customers paid good money for heirloom pieces that they would own for the rest of their lives.
As proof of the quality, look at the condition these pieces are still in after nearly half a century of everyday use. Look at a piece made in the 1950s or 1960s and you’ll see that structurally and cosmetically, they’re almost always in excellent shape. Well cared for, they will last you another 40 – 75 years.
Additionally, most new production knock offs are made in low-cost factories overseas using low-quality materials. These pieces are merely mirroring the look of good design, without having put in the work to understand ergonomics, craftsmanship, functionality and form. Sitting in an original Arne Jacobsen Egg chair versus a cheap new production “Egg” chair from China, you will instantly be able to tell the difference in comfort and quality.
There are current manufacturers offering that “mid century look” for a bargain basement price, and those manufacturers have set the quality and price bar for furniture extremely low, creating an unrealistic standard for what people believe should be the average price for a “good” piece of mid century furniture.
Carbon fibre is increasingly celebrated as a wonder material for the clean economy. Its unique combination of high strength and low weight has helped drive the wind power revolution and make planes more fuel efficient.
Carbon fibre turbine blades can be longer and more rigid than traditional fibreglass models, making them more resilient at sea and more efficient in less breezy conditions.
But carbon fibre has a dirty secret: the hi-tech material is wasteful to produce and difficult to recycle.
Pro tip: You can often tell how long a piece of furniture will last based on how it’s put together. See any traditional Japanese joinery techniques? There’s a good chance that piece will outlast you. Flimsier connection methods—like the simple and inexpensive screws and pegs of which Ikea is fond—might not survive your next move.
Environmental artist J Henry Fair captures the beauty and destruction of industrial sites to illustrate the hidden impacts of the things we buy – the polluted air, destroyed habitats and the invisible carbon heating the planet.