21 November 2019
Sustainability is now a mainstream concern for consumers at all levels in the wake of Blue Planet II and the war on single use plastics, to more recent events such as the protests of Extinction Rebellion and the growing following of Greta Thunberg. Consumers are increasingly aware that their actions and the brands that they buy from have an impact on the environment.
An interest in sustainable materials is emerging as householders look for alternatives which address big picture sustainability issues such as water shortages, plastic waste and sustainable sourcing. In this blog post we explore five new sustainable materials set to emerge in the home.
Developed by designer Fernando Laposse, Totomoxtle is a new veneer material made with the husks of heirloom Mexican corn. In developing the material Laposse looked to address a number of issues including promoting food diversity, regenerating traditional Mexican agricultural practices, generating income for impoverished farmers and also climate change. To create the veneer the husks of over 60 varieties of corn – which would otherwise go to waste – are heated, flattened and glued by hand onto fibreboard and card to reinforce them. Ranging from deep purples to almost blacks and soft creams the beautiful resulting material can be used in various applications for interiors and furniture.
Launched in 2013, the creators behind Solidwool, designers Justin and Hannah Floyd, emerged early in the exploration of alternative materials. Having moved to the southwest town of Buckfastleigh in England, a region which was once a thriving part of the woollen industry, the team learned about Herdwick wool. The coarse wool derived from hill farmed sheep – historically used in the UK carpet industry – saw a dramatic decline in demand and was seen as a by-product of sheep farming. The couple identified an opportunity to create a new material, combining protein fibres (Herdwick wool) with a bio-resin derived from waste streams in industrial processes such as wood-pulp and bio-fuel production. The result is a composite material similar to fibreglass which can be used for many applications including veneers, tableware and furniture.
Piñatex was developed by Dr. Carmen Hijosa as a sustainable alternative to animal or synthetic based leathers. Inspired by the principles of a Circular Economy and Cradle to Cradle values, Carmen was drawn to pineapple leaf fibre, an agricultural waste product. Long fibres are extracted from pineapple leaves in a process called decortication, these fibres are then degummed and undergo an industrial process to create a non-woven mesh. This mesh is transported to Spain where it undergoes a finishing process to give it a leather-like appearance. The material has been used as an alternative to leather in footwear and fashion accessories, clothing, interior furnishing and automotive upholstery.
Derived from fungi, mycelium is quickly becoming a popular material for designers and manufacturers alike. Fast-growing and easy to cultivate this versatile material can be designed to adopt properties similar to that of materials like leather, wood, stone and polystyrene. London based designer Nir Meiri has created a set of lamps using mycelium to create the light shades. The shades are created by placing paper waste inside a shaped mould before mycelium spores are inserted into it and left to grow under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. The result is a lamp shade which creates a soft natural glow, perfect for creating ambience within the home.
Rammed earth is becoming an increasingly popular material alternative to concrete in the construction of homes and the built environment. Rammed earth is created by mixing soil with a variety of sand, gravel, clay or stabilisers such as lime or cement. The material is more sustainable than concrete because soil is so readily abundant and less energy intensive than concrete. Visually rammed earth produces a range of natural earthy shades which can be layered to create a stunning pattern and texture.
Investing in the development or use of sustainable materials will become increasingly important for brands as consumers move away from those who use traditional, environmentally damaging materials.
Find out more about how an appetite for sustainable design is impacting the home throughout our trend publications. Our Home & Interiors Trend Books are seen as an essential tool by some of the world’s best brands and retailers, helping them make sound commercial decisions about how to respond to future change. To receive a free demo click ‘download now’ to the top right of this post.
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