As environmental degradation becomes more alarming, sustainability should no longer be a trend but a need.

Sustainability is a lifestyle which includes the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the things you buy, and the little habits in everyday life. We live in a world of rampant consumerism, and this is madness.

Big businesses like to sell their products cheap, prompting people to buy more. Little  do we  know that these companies may use inexpensive, toxic materials and exploit cheap labor in order to bring down production costs.

Even though there is an increasing awareness towards sustainability, there are still certain biases against sustainable materials. Some people believe that materials like recycled fabric and reclaimed wood are ugly or gross, and they would demand products that are made out of virgin materials.

But thanks to new technologies and innovative artists, the tide is turning and sustainable design can be just as good, aesthetically and functionally, as conventional design.

Architecture

Certain elements of a building’s design can influence insulation, ventilation, and lighting. The building’s contours or orientation are important for both ventilation and lighting. It has to be designed in such a way that air outside can flow smoothly into the building and circulate inside. Likewise, openings must also be able to allow light to come inside.

Colors are also important for insulation and lighting. Notice how Scandinavian design uses dark colors for exteriors and whites for interiors. The dark color outside absorbs heat, insulating the building during the harsh winters, whereas the white colors inside diffuse light, illuminating the building despite the lack of sunlight during the cold months. These two aspects of a building alone can reduce the dependency on electricity significantly.

Materials are another major factor in sustainable architecture. Locally-sourced recycled wood is a very good option. One alternative that’s growing in popularity is bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants in the world that’s very common in the tropics; it’s as strong as steel which makes it a very effective building material. Both sustainable and functional, bamboo is almost the perfect building material.

A perfect example of an architectural project that incorporates design, sustainability, and functionalism equally is the Green Village in Bali, Indonesia, designed by the Ibuku architecture firm.

Besides the building’s foundation, the finishing material like paint is also important to consider. Boysen offers different eco-friendly options for paint such as  KNOxOUT which cleans the air, Cool Shades, a roof paint that helps bring down energy cost, and the odor-less, low VOC, lead-free Healthy Home, to name a few.

Furniture

Most sustainable furniture you can buy are sourced out of reclaimed wood or salvaged wood, both of which are recycled. Reclaimed wood refers to those that has been used for some other purpose previously, salvaged wood refers to those that come from dead trees. Both are more sustainable than fresh wood but still require a lot of work, from carving and polishing, before you can use it as furniture.

Other than sourcing, sustainable furniture is ideally handcrafted, rather than mass-produced in factories. It gives employment to more people and keeps the artistry of furniture making alive. A good example of sustainable furniture would be those by Filipino designer Benji Reyes who uses only reclaimed wood. His furniture is distinctly Filipino. Functionally, they are unbelievably comfortable to sit or lie down on despite the wooden material. He manages to make his furniture comfortable by shaping them in such a way that it “fits” the human body.

Benji Reyes Furniture
Benji Reyes Furniture

One notable invention made was a machine that turns PET bottles to fiber which can be woven into a fabric. This material was used for the Nobody chair of Danish furniture company HAY. Designed by Copenhagen-based firm Komplot Design, this minimalist chair is created completely with the use of the fiber, molding it to its shape rather than using it as a lining, making this the first monoblock chair using only textile for construction.

Fashion

An iconic innovator who was way beyond his time is the Belgian designer Martin Margiela. Although he no longer works, the legacy he has left in the fashion industry is an enormous one. His style revolved around deconstruction and silhouette experimentation, but what made his work truly distinctive was the use of recycled materials. He would use the most mundane materials such as surgical gloves, combs, hair, and belts; he also never hid the fact that his clothing were created with these materials. They added character to the pieces and seeing them leaves you in awe of Margiela’s brilliance. It takes a lot of creativity to turn such commonplace items into high fashion.

Sustainable fashion doesn’t stop at high fashion though. Affordable fashion brands such as H&M and Levi’s have made use of new technology to create clothing out of recycled materials. H&M uses the fabric from donated items to weave into new clothes once more whereas Levi’s uses a similar kind of technology to HAY’s, using PET fabric for their jeans.

Quality and design don’t have to be sacrificed for sustainability. Nowadays, they often come hand in hand. It only takes creativity to incorporate these elements well to make something that is both environmentally conscious and beautiful. Sustainability should not be a trend, but a global, lifelong movement that aims to diminish our negative impact on the environment.

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Kai Lauridsen
Author

Kai is a university student who loves travelling and learning about new cultures. His interests lie in the visual arts such as film, photography, and design. He also practices ashtanga yoga.

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