Neo-EcoMaterials: An avenue for Sustainability

The intersection between design and sustainability only continues to deepen over the years, pushing big industry brands like Puma or Balenciaga to adopt more science-based advocacies. Luxury group LVMH has also since established their own Innovation Award for emerging designers. Just this past month, the COP26 Climate Summit served as a platform for big names like Norman Foster, Es Devlin, and Olafur Eliasson to influence designers of today with an environmental awareness over the capabilities and consequences of the design practice.

With the climate crisis looming we look into new materials and methods for living and consumption that minimize our footprint. Fortunately, advanced tech has since worked hand in hand with designers to regenerate “aesthetics” in sustainability, making the road to net-zero healthy and palatable.

AuREUS UV Power Sequestering Panels by Carvey Ehren Maigue
AuREUS UV Power Sequestering Panels by Carvey Ehren Maigue
AuREUS UV Power Sequestering Panels by Carvey Ehren Maigue

Filipino industrial designer Carvey Ehren Maigue has developed a UV power-generating material from juice-extracted bioluminescent particles of crops wasted in droughts. The result is a material that transmutes sunlight even on especially cloudy days into energy, similar in function to solar panels yet taking the form of a pliable fluorescent panel easily cladded onto building facades.

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Sonnet 155 by Lobke Beckfeld and Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten
Sonnet 155 by Lobke Beckfeld and Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten
Sonnet 155 by Lobke Beckfeld and Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten

Also taking from juice waste, SONNET155designed by Lobke Beckfeld and Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten combines industrial by-products from both juice and fabric production to create desirable items, that represent sustainability as a treat rather than a burden and can be fully integrated in a biological life cycle going back to the earth after wear and tear. More on textiles, Uyen Tran has developed biodegradable leather that can take on various textures, Tômtex is made of upcycled seafood shells dyed with coffee grounds among other natural dyes. 

Tômtex by Uyen Tran
Tômtex by Uyen Tran
Tômtex by Uyen Tran
Tômtex by Uyen Tran
Cellulose fiber boards by HONEXT®
Cellulose fiber boards by HONEXT®
Cellulose fiber boards by HONEXT®

Construction board manufacturer HONEXT® from Barcelona devised a circular process for paper waste by adding enzymes to cellulose fibers of paper unfit for production, creating MDF or drywall panel alternatives that are emission-free and recyclable.

Sustainability also poses a task to not only regenerate new states of being for these materials but to also imagine their futures, a circular approach. 

The Growing Pavilion, photos by Eric Melander
The Growing Pavilion, photos by Eric Melander
The Growing Pavilion, photos by Eric Melander

The Growing Pavilion was a performance set collaboration by Pascal Leboucq, Lucas De Man & Eric Klarenbeek built entirely from a collective of natural materials; a circular plan in a timber frame fitted with a mycelium envelope called ‘Living Skin’ that grew harvestable fungi. Also bound by mycelium, Wasteware by Barbara Gollackner is a collection of homeware made of assorted food scraps. 

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Some biobased designers argue that these materials can stand as more than just an “alternative”, recognizing their unique beauty and identity much more than the sense of novelty we tend to attach to eco-friendly things. Blood Related by Basse Stittgen explores this by using cow blood from slaughterhouses in a collection of homeware items, dried then powdered and formed into stark black vessels.

Blood Related collection (L to R: photos by Basse Stittgen, Boudewijn Bollmann, Donghwan Kim)
Blood Related collection (L to R: photos by Basse Stittgen, Boudewijn Bollmann, Donghwan Kim)
Blood Related collection (L to R: photos by Basse Stittgen, Boudewijn Bollmann, Donghwan Kim)

Crisis indeed sparks innovation. In this planetary cause we all share, designers must realize their role of returning what is needed to sustain life.

Images from the Designers