Biodegradable Furniture Turns Design Upside Down

June 10, 2008 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

Despite all the talk about green interior design, there’s a long way to go before we live with furniture and household items that are actually biodegradable. A truly green sofa ought to be disposable via the compost heap in your own garden by the time you’re done with it, don’t you agree? That’s the central argument in the Cradle2Cradle philosophy. Unlike durable design, C2C is the real end of the throw away society.

The C2C philosophy has been around for the last five years, but to find furniture designers that adhere to its principles it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. A recently created design house by eight Dutch design students has embraced C2C fully. The company, called Artishok, has just completed its first designs after spending months researching the best 100% biodegradable materials for modern furniture.

The team was directly inspired by William McDonough, an architect, and the chemist Michael Braungart, the two inventors of C2C. The duo believes that another Industrial Revolution is at hand which is concentrated around ecological production methods.

The Artishok design studio embodies this perfectly, creating furniture from corn based plastics. Artishok’s products look no different than other designer stuff and the advantage of the Artishok items is that they virtually do not contribute to your carbon footprint. After use, you can safely throw the furniture on your garden’s compost heap without polluting the soil even 1%. That means that the eight students are about as close as any designers to replicating the natural cycle directly. There’s likely strong demand for such items because other than recycled materials, 100% natural materials effectively eliminate the garbage problem. C2C based items can be ´fed back´ to mother nature no questions asked! Artishok buys its materials from Biopearls, another Dutch enterprise which makes biodegradable polymers.

C2C has turned the design world on its head in some ways. Everybody agrees that the throw away society must be stopped, but C2C appears to clash with durable design. Because unlike durable designs which seem to deny a product’s end point, C2C is sold primarily because of its ‘rotting away’ value. Critics say that it’s the trash heap nightmare, and not nature, which inspires this and that C2C is merely a marketing ploy. Some people also believe that nature doesn’t need extra compost. That might very well be true, but McDonough and Braungart aren’t too extreme. They say that so long as you create stuff that can be re-used by industry, you might consider it on equal terms with biodegradable materials. Every item that´s not ending up in a rubbish dump helps solve the landslide problem.

Other designers working with corn based plastics have mostly been involved with soft finishings like pillows. And Umbra, the US mid market designer has manufactured a 100% corn based Garbine trashcan. Another natural material that’s used in designs is sugar, which, believe it or not, can be used for making lamps. Other than furniture designers, HP is also experimenting with natural plastics.

Artisjok’s competition in the Netherlands is virtually zero, but there is massive interest in the C2C philosophy throughout Europe. This entire year and in 2009 the agenda’s of McDonough and Braungart are chockerbloc with Dutch speaking appointments. There are also plans to offer Braungart a position as professor at a newly created C2C institute in Venlo, the Netherlands.

Entry filed under: Green News.

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