Throughout this expanded practice project I have learnt about TED’s TEN strategies to sustainability and how they can be integrated into design. I have been able to make links between design sustainability and my own practice, in particular; alternatives to chemical dying. Also on a more personal day-to-day level in how I approach disposable culture, reducing my plastic use and trying to reduce waste.
One particularly inspiring piece of research was the eco-dying. The work of Cara Piazza has made be question my use of colour and how I could use natural sources of colour in more innovative ways in order to try and reduce the chemical impact of my work. Piazza’s practice has also made me question why natural dying is not more prevalent in fashion today and how little research there seems to be in developing more natural dyes.
As a textile artist I am looking for new, innovative materials and fabrics to use constantly. The use of mycelium (mushroom) was another piece of research that has really interested me. As an alternative to leather I think that this material is extremely innovative and relevant at present. With many people turning vegetarian or vegan I feel like this research has come at exactly the right time to be a real turning point for the leather industry, hopefully creating an overall more sustainable area within the textiles industry. As mycelium can be grown into many shapes I would like to work with this material in the future but maybe in a more sculptural way.
I am pleased by the range of issues I have covered in this unit, especially those that were new to me, such as cyclability rather than recycling. I feel that the blog has been a very good tool for reflection, although I feel that I could have integrated some of my research further into my practice, for example; looking for yarns from sustainable sources, as I feel I lack knowledge in the sourcing and origins of the materials I use.
I think I could have made my reflection within my blog relate more to my individual design process, as I looked more at wider sustainability issues, rather than specific ones that related to my practice, although I do regard those wider issues to link to myself in many ways, but in a more day-to-day sense, rather than a design sense. I also think that in the sessions I could have been more involved in discussions with students from graphics and interior and spacial design, so that I could have learnt more about other peoples opinions in relation to each strategy, depending on the market they are designing for. In the workshop session I heard opinions from students on other courses and it was interesting to see what they felt were the most important sustainability design strategies, compared to me, being a textiles student.
Overall this unit has been very informative and will definitely impact my decisions in later projects. I want to develop my research further linking into my specialism of knitted textiles, as I feel there isn’t as much specific sustainability research within this particular area of textiles.
As I am originally from Cornwall, I have been very aware of the harm that plastic does to the environment and in particular in the sea and beaches. Several articles have been in the new this past year surrounding this issue. For example a whale that was found on the coast of Norway with over 40 plastic bags in its stomach, which had led to its malnourishment and eventual death.
Another, was the effect that plastic micro beads and micro- fibres have on our seas. The use of micro-beads in body and face washes as exfoliants has caused these tiny pieces of plastic to enter the seas through water systems, similarly micro-fibres of synthetic fabrics from clothing have entered the water from washing in washing machines. Micro fibres are then being consumed by sea life, starting with smaller organisms that then get eaten by larger ones, and so on, meaning that the micro fibres make their way up the food chain. These fibres are seen to be poisonous to the animals due to the plastic materials they are made from.
For my Research I decided to look at pieces of visible plastic found on the shores of beaches as this was an easily accessible way to record my findings. I was inspired by the work of Hanna Tofts. She has created a book called PLASTIC SEA, which is an artistic documentation of sea pollution, in the form of a book. I liked the way that Tofts has created a visually appealing way to display an issue that people may ignore. Her imagery is bright, imaginative, emotive and quirky, appealing to both younger and more mature audiences. It also promotes awareness of the issues surrounding disposal of plastic- which is the important message. I think that using more innovative ways to introduce sustainability awareness is a key point in reaching a larger audience, and educating them on the issues surrounding the use and disposal of plastics today.
For my attempt at documentation of plastic pollution, I went to a beach on the coast of North Cornwall. I picked up 60+ pieces of plastic. This was only a fraction of what I saw on the beach too. There was so many smaller pieces of plastic that I would not usually stop to acknowledge, but this time I did, and was surprised at the range of objects I found. I found parts of pens, sponge balls, a tampon, string, bottle caps, part of a balloon and a bead, just to name a few of the more recogniseable pieces. This demonstrated to me how relatable this issue of plastic pollution is and how common/recognisable so many of these items would be to the majority of the public. I decided to arrange these items into colour groupings to create visually attractive images. This is an attempt to catch the eye of a viewer to make them question the origin of the objects. I have also experimented with adding in wording.
In this workshop session we discussed which of TEDS TEN strategies towards sustainability most applied to our individual practice. As I am a textiles designer I am focussed on materials, colour, technique and production. Relating this to sustainability issues I could look at:
Alternatives to materials that shed artificial micro-fibres. 1
Recyclability of materials. 1, 2
Alternatives to chemical dying/bleaching and tanning. 3
Ways to minimise material wasted in production. 5, 1
Durability of materials 1, 8
Fast fashion 1, 7, 8
Ethical manufacturing 7, 3
After looking at the issues above I can see that the TEDS TEN strategies that most apply to my practice are:
1) 1- Design to minimise waste.
2) 3-Design to reduce chemical impacts.
3) 7-Design for ethical production.
4) 8-Design to reduce the need to consume.
5) 2-Design for cyclability.
6) 5-Design that explores clean/better technologies.
For the group task I decided to focus on natural dying. This is something that I have experimented with briefly in my practice but not looked at in much detail. I feel as though dying yarns and fabrics is a key process in producing textiles outcomes because colour is so important in design.
I have looked at using berries to dye, but have no worked out how to set the dye into the fabric so that it won’t wash out. Below is some samples dyed with Mulberries.
The strategy I focussed on for the group task was 3-Design to reduce chemical impacts. Firstly we discussed the impacts that we were aware of surrounding chemical waste/impacts. These were :
Plastic waste, creating pollution to the sea and land. Oil based plastics can pollute the soil with chemicals.
Dying/bleaching/tanning chemicals from fabric production that wash into water sources and the sea causing chemical pollution.
Chemicals used to fertilise crops, washing into rivers-polluting them.
Cleaning products used in homes etc washing into the sea and causing chemical pollution.
Chemicals used in manufacturing e.g. solvents.
We then furthered our discussions to look at solutions to these problems. Firstly we discussed biodegradable alternatives to plastics, there are lots of them, including jute, paper, hemp, wheat grass, mushrooms etc. I have chosen to look at examples that use seaweed.
Firstly the work of Edvard Jonas, that combines seaweed with recycled paper to create interior items that can biodegrade. He harvests seaweed from the coast of Denmark, which he then dries and grinds down into a powder. This can then be used as a glue, due the the algate which occurs naturally in seaweed, which gives it a sticky viscous quality. After being mixed with recycled paper, it creates a strong material that has been used to make chairs and lamp shades. The material can be made in a range of colours depending on the shade/species of the seaweed.
I think that this bio-plastic is very successful in functioning like plastic, but without the environmental damage. I also like how the extraction process doesn’t seem to use chemicals (as far as I am aware). For larger plastic items such as furniture and interiors, I think this could be a great replacement. For example, plastic school chairs, which would also raise the issue of sustainability to a younger audience, meaning they have an educational purpose as well as functional.
Looking at more disposable forms of plastic waste, the plastic water bottle is one of the most popular disposable waste plastics. With many of them only being used once, they are a prominent problem in terms of sustainability. Ari Jónsson uses algae from seaweed to make biodegradable water bottles. They hold their shape when filled with water, but start to dry out and shrink when empty. This means they are the ideal solution to one use plastic bottle waste.
The second focus point for me is chemicals used in production of textiles, this includes dying, bleaching and tanning. A very large percentage of fabrics and textiles produced are in some way altered in terms of colour. materials such as cotton, polyester, wool etc are often dyed with chemical dyes. Many are also bleached. The leather industry is another massive contributor to chemical waste because of the tanning process used to cure the leather. These chemicals can then drain into water ways and pollute water sources and land for both humans and animals.
We discussed alternatives to chemical dyes and leather in our groups. Using natural dye to create colour on fabric is one alternative method that works as a solution against chemical dying. Cara Piazza is a textile designer that works with natural dyes such as flowers , food waste and non-toxic metals. Some of her work that I find inspirational is her use of flowers that would otherwise be waste to create individual bespoke items of clothing. She prints onto materials such as organic cotton, which means less processes have been applied to that material in order for her to then apply colour. The way this method uses waste to create dye means that it is very eco-friendly and has a low impact to the environment.
Finally looking at the leather industry and how negatively impactful it is on the environment due to the use of chemicals, I have looked into alternatives to leather and one that I have found most interesting is the use of mushrooms. Mycelium is a material grown within the structure of a mushroom, but is its underground structure. It can be grown into shapes and used to make leather goods, without chemicals (as far as I know). It carries the same properties as leather, it can be coloured, is water resistant and flexible. It can also be grown in the shape of bricks, to create architectural structures.
MycoWorks is a company that engineers this material and makes a variety of products from it.
As I was not able to attend this lecture, for this weeks blog post I have done my own research into a few areas of sustainability linking to the previous two lectures.
Staying with the theme of City living, I have been researching into the Olympic sites in London, especially the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There park has many systems in place that contribute to sustainability. One of these is there waste water recycling system with works with the strategy of reducing water use. This system takes effluent from the Northern Outfall sewer and works to cleanse it creating grey water that is 95% as clean as drinking water, this can then be used in homes for toilet flushes as well as in irrigation systems for the park.
The park also works with the idea of a ‘smart city’ in mind. This relates to the strategy of creating better technologies. The park focuses on four main areas to manage sustainability challenges:
Resource efficient buildings
Smart park/future living
Data architecture and management
These areas of focus help to record and improve new strategies, which help to evolve technologies to improve London’s sustainability.
Secondly I have looked at an example relating to ethical fashion. This is an important issue to me as a textiles designer because of the prevelence of non-ethical production in the textiles and fashion industries. The Ethical Fashion Initiative have developed a system called RISE, that measured social impact, sustainability and traceability of a fashion product. It is designed to monitor and track the impact of producing fashion items. This system is an important feature within the fashion and textiles industry. I feel that If companies and consumers are aware of systems like this then there will be more pressure for companies to become transparent and therefore encouraged to change to more ethical production methods if they do not meet the regulations set up to ensure that environmental and social sustainability is met.
This lecture discussed strategies for sustainability that take models from nature and history as well as design that explores cleaner and better technologies.
Innovation in design is important when looking to push forward new ideas in sustainability, however it is useful to sometimes rewind from the constant invention of entirely new technologies, and look back at historical or natural systems that have worked without human input.
I have decided to look at these strategies in relation to my everyday life in the city. One of the main environmental impacts within the city is air pollution. This is due to many factors including a concentrated population, increased emissions due to heavy vehicle use, as well as a lack of green areas. I feel as though within the city there could more design that integrates systems to reduce pollution. One design that I have researched is the use of bikes that also filter the air. Whilst not contributing to pollution due to the zero emissions of a bike, a design by Lightfog Creative and Design company also looks at how a bike can purify the air as it is ridden. This is a form of biomimicry, meaning that it is modelled on a process from nature. In this case it is the photosynthesis.
I think this is a great, multi purpose design that in theory could make a positive impact within a city environment.
Secondly I researched vertical farming. This is with the idea to localise food sources, in turn cutting down both economic and environmental costs. This takes inspiration from formations of vegetation such as rainforests. These environment thrive, growing in a massively 3d structure. Mass farming has produced many sustainability issues, including waste, massive water consumption and increased travel of products before they become available to the consumer. Growing a ‘farms’ in and around cities and utilising 3d structured could be massively beneficial in many ways, including creating a greener urban environment, decreased transit of products, and utilisation of waste water run-off from urban structures.
I think that there is still a lot of ways that an urban environment could be enhances by integrating more technologies inspired by nature. I also feel like these technologies need to reach a wider audience-allgenerations. One design that was shown in class that I feel could promote new technologies to a wider audience was the ink made from pollution. I think that the youth of London, from all backgrounds would find this technology inspiring, as it is both impressive and functional and could be used for street art, to promote environmental awareness. I feel that London has a long way to go in terms of cleaner alternatives for transport. In recent years there have been installations of cycle ‘highways’ that have promoted bicycle use, but I feel like there should be more of a focus on alternatives to tradition diesel fuelled cars and busses.
In this lecture we discussed how sustainability is a wicked problem because of how multi-faceted it is. There are multiple contributors to the issue of non-sustainable living and many ‘solutions’ seem to have contradictory elements to them. There also seems to be an element of selective promotion within many companies, focussing on one issue they are attempting to solve, whilst relying on other non-sustainable methods in other areas of production. An example of this could be:
A company that offers a repair service for their clothing, which promotes a less wasteful approach to fashion. However, the company may dye their clothing with chemical dyes, which add to chemical waste pollution, having a negative environmental impact. They may also use unfair trade labour, which would have a negative ethical impact.
This example demonstrates how difficult it is to have a company or brand that is 100% sustainable, especially when there are so many different steps to construction of the final product. This has lead to some companies attempting to be ‘transparent’. Which means that they offer information to the buyer about how the product has been made in its entirety (supply chain mapping). This could include, material sourcing, construction, dying, etc.
Companies such as New Balance, Adidas, Asos and Levi’s are part of a group called Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). SAC is an organisation that measures sustainability of these companies using the Higg index, which is a standardised supply chain measurement tool. It consists of many criteria that make brands and users aware of sustainability standards in both an environmental and social sense. They have three main areas: Product Tool, Facility Tools and Brand Tools, which target different stages of production, measuring issues within each. This can then be combined to give an overall view of how impactful a company is, and what must change within the company to improve their production.
Whilst looking into brands that use this index I also found the RS program, which the brand New Balance comply to. ‘RS’ stands for Restricted Substances, this program works to stop hazardous chemical substances being used in any part of the production. New Balance state:
‘Historically, the footwear industry has used a wide variety of chemical substances to make its products, some of which—heavy metals, solvents, phthalates and certain dyes—are considered to be hazardous. To address potential hazards before they enter factories making New Balance products, we have established a team that reviews all chemicals considered for possible use. If a chemical is reviewed and found to be inappropriate for use, it is sent to the New Balance Product Chemistry Team, which is responsible for maintaining and implementing our Restricted Substances Manual (RSM) for our domestic and global factories.’ – http://www.newbalance.co.uk/inside-nb-environment.html.
This process of eliminating harmful substances impacts both the environment and the companies workers positively, Reducing the chemical impacts of the company massively. It is an integral part of production, which prompts new innovations in more sustainable materials to be used in the products, creating an overall more sustainable company.
Alternatively to reducing chemical impacts of design/production. I have also looked at ways to reduce energy and water use. Through research I found a company called SPACE10 that created a hydroponic farm within an office. This farm require no soil or sunlight and only requires a fraction of the water that a regular farm would. The idea is to produce food efficiently through giving it optimum living conditions. This system reduces environmental impact in many ways including: reduced energy used in transportation due to the in-city and local location, reduced use of water and energy to distribute water and fertilisers and no chemicals are used in production.
In this seminar we shared our personal research from the last two lectures through a short powerpoint Presentation. I found this interesting because of the mixture of students from Textile design, Interior and spacial design and Graphics, which meant that there was research into areas of study that I personally may not have explored otherwise.
There were several ideas discussed that were useful to my own research as there is much overlap throughout the study of sustainability and design. There were a couple of presentations that concentrated on a zero waste approach to design, an area of study that is very relevant to textiles, due to the waste of lots of fabric and materials due to methods of construction. The company JOE O’NEILL claims that around 15% of the fabric used in a traditionally reduced agreement is wasted due to the pattern cutting process, because of this they designed a coat that cut be cut entirely from a piece of fabric with zero excess fabric. This meant that each pattern piece was meticulously designed so that it fitted together on a single piece of fabric like puzzle pieces, but when constructed, had all of the same functionalities and qualities of a regular coat/jacket.
I think that this strategy to minimalist waste in production of clothing could be a key development in sustainability. This could save companies a lot of monies forth of fabric, if they concentrated more on this approach to construction.
Similarly to this idea,Christien Meindertsma’s Flax chair has a similar no waste design but also uses biodegradable materials.The chair is made from flax fibres along with sugar cane/ corn starch, and is cut from on panel. Firstly the seat part of the chair is cut and bent into shape, then the chair legs are formed from the remainders of the panel, which are again bent and formed into shape. Meinderstam’s design relates to both cyclability and zero waste strategies to sustainability, which Is shows innovation in design and a positive approach towards a more sustainable future.
Another student discussed a design for a bus shelter that was foldable and promoted eco-living. This applied to the strategy of developing systems for the needs of the user. The bus shelter design that the student discussed could be folded away to optimise space and also act as an interactive eco-structure. I think that this is a good way to directly involve people with sustainability projects in a way that could educate a larger audience. As a whole I think there is a general lack of awareness for environmental issues, especially within cities, where there is so much advertisement, yet most of this disregards any form of sustainability, relying mostly on consumerism. Areas such as Bus stops/shelters are areas used my people that are already contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle by using shared transport, so why not educate these people further by highlighting other issues, such as awareness of recycling and minimising waste, whilst also having a structure that benefits them directly in design, by being multi-purposeful.
Working from the first two lectures on circular economy and the needs of the consumer, I decided to look at solutions to disposable products within the city. Living in London means that I see many disposable products used in mass each day, including; coffee cups, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, food packaging etc. My presentation explores some alternatives to the use of non recyclable materials, focusing on the use of mono materials and biodegradable materials. Please see power-point below.
After researching innovative solutions to disposable products, I looked at my day-to-day life and what already exists in terms of recyclable and biodegradable products/materials. Below are just a few examples that I found.
Swapping out polystyrene for recycled alternatives: Recyclable materials are an improvement on throw away culture, but still ultimately reach a point when they become no longer useable as the material has been weakened. This is a material used in packaging, to insulate some chilled items that I received in a food box delivery.It is made from recycled plastic and is in its last useable use before it has no recyclable quality left. I felt that this shows a step towards using sustainable packaging etc, but still could be improved, by using biodegradable alternatives, such as shredded paper.
Visual inspiration: At a recent food fair in my college, there were several stools that focused on promoting the ‘eco’ qualities of their products, as a big selling point. Looking at a more aesthetic approach to advertising recycling and up cycling could be a really great way to get a wider audience of people involved in making the effort to improve our throw away, consumer culture.
This free leaflet was part of the promotion for a drink sold in my university canteen. It is very inspiring for both creative and non-creative people, as the up-cycling ideas are mostly very simple and straight forward. All the photos are very well-laid out and the look of the brochure is very appealing.
Obvious instruction: This is a strategy that I feel could be implemented by a lot more businesses, in order for people to not be able to ignore. For people that are looking for a recycling logo, a lot of items are clearly marked. But I feel as though there are lots of products, food,packaging etc, that people assume or don’t think, to recycle. If there was more in your face recycling instructions or slogans, maybe more people would think to recycle rather than just put their rubbish in the closest bin?
In this lecture we discussed strategies that can accommodate the needs of a user without sacrificing its sustainability.
Firstly I’m going to look at fast fashion; the need to follow trends . Fast fashion is aimed at both high end and high street buyers, meaning that the problem is wide spread throughout the industry. Fast fashion relies on consumerism- the need to consume, encouraged by advertisement and constant updating of what appears to be in or out of fashion. I feel as though a sense on individuality can be lost when everyone is trying to stay on trend in order to adhere to what they think they should look like and wear.
Lots of fashion brands are starting to work against fast fashion and instead focus on producing high quality products. I have found a brand from Cornwall (where I am from) that specialises in quality clothing, built to last. They are called Finisterre. They use quality materials, that include some from recycled sources (insulation in their jackets) to make long lasting coats, jackets, shirts, jumpers etc. They also have run a repairs service that can inject new life into older garments.
Carrying on the idea of repairing clothing in order to make it wearable for longer, I have discovered lots of mend and make do projects. Celia Pym’s work at particularly interested me, because she uses knit to explore this strategy. There is a very artistic quality to her work in the way that each piece looks like it has a narrative. There seems to be a life and story behind each item, which builds a relationship between the wearer and the clothing. This could be another strategy against fast fashion in the way that if the user builds up a relationship with an item of clothing, they are less likely to want to discard it, meaning it is kept for longer and worn for a longer period of time.
Kirsty Whitlock is an artist that has responded to consumerism and the throw away culture of today. Her work is very emotive in the use of recognisable logos and bright garish colours, reminding us of how in our face advertisement really is.This could also be considered as design activism. Whitlock uses discarded materials and recycles them to make art work that works against consumerism. Fine art is generally made to be kept for many many years, which in itself works against consumer culture, but here Whitlock responds to consumer culture by marrying together disposable items with the context of a treasured fine art piece.
When looking at modern consumer culture it is clear how little we integrate strategies for a circular economy. In turn this leads to many of our environmental problems. This is because of the take → make → dispose system which works to create a linear economy. This means that we take raw materials, make them into something, then dispose them in a way that can’t re-generate another raw material. For example:
Metals and oils are taken from a source, the oils are made into plastics and the metals are refined. They are then joined together to make a toaster. This toaster is then used for a few years and thrown away, but these materials cannot be separated and re-used so are put into landfill. This is known as a technical cycle.
In opposition to this is the biological cycle which is a more natural process, of regeneration. For example :
A tree, which has grown from the nutrients in the ground, as well as sunlight etc. When this tree grows it absorbs from the earth beneath it, which then travels up and around the tree to supply growth. This then promotes the growth of leaves and fruit. The leaves and fruit will stop to the ground and rot down to produce an enriched soil, therefore supplying nutrients for the next cycle of growth. This is a circular system.
This circular system is very sustainable because of the way that the previous yield supplies for the next. This is a step further towards sustainability from recycling. Recycling uses previously made materials and re-purposes them, but this cannot last inevitably because the materials that we recycle, such as glass and plastic weaken after time, become un-useable. This means that they ultimately end up in land fill, polluting land and see. Looking to a circular economy, materials that can bio-degrade and become a source for regeneration are the optimum sustainable solution.
One of the key issues in terms of recycling and cyclability is the use of multiple bonded components in one product, that cannot be separated for recycling or replacement. Products that can be disassembled, or that are made from mono materials (only one material) would help to enable the longer life of the object itself or the materials used to make it.
A company called Niaga have developed a way to produce carpet from 100% recoverable and recyclable materials. In the case study I have found about their work it claims that 85% of carpet materials end up in landfill. This is due to lack of recycling and the materials in which the carpets are made from (chemicals, plastics, etc). Niaga have created a carpet made up of two layers which are joined with a reversible adhesive, meaning that they can be easily seperated after use. From here they can then be regenerated into the materials to make fresh carpets again.
Using modular construction in design allows for parts of a product to be upgraded and changed if broken or in-need of replacement. This means that there is a design intention for this product to be restorative or regenerative, ultimately resulting in a much longer life of use, which results in less demand for production.
In 2012 a student from the Royal College of Art London called Gaspard Tiné-Berès created a collection of kitchen appliances made from recycles materials, including cork. In the collection were a coffee maker, toaster and a kettle which re-used components from previous items. Because of the changeable design of the appliances, pieces can be taken out and upgraded as needed, so that the product can last longer, which in-turn minimises waste.