Leaving a Light Footprint on the Planet

Leaving a Light Footprint on the Planet
Rainbows wallcoverings collection. Courtesy of Omexco.

Zero-waste design, upcycled materials and low-impact living are not only current trends, but they’re also a lifestyle. Consumers want it, manufacturers aim to deliver it and architecture and design professionals automatically expect to create it.

Alongside manufacturers, architecture and design professionals lead the path in creating more nature-based, eco-friendly products and buildings. They focus their time and energy on researching new opportunities for materials. At nearly every trade fair, such as NeoCon in Chicago last June and Maison&Objet in Paris this month, we learn more about recycled and upcycled materials, low-impact living and zero-waste design.

Reviving Materials from a Sad Ending

Developing new technologies and material production processes put designers ahead of the line in innovation when it protects the ecosystem. At the same time, we’re turning back the clock to clean up the mess we’ve accumulated, so the generations to come will not have to do the same.

BentuDesign, an outstanding concrete furniture brand from China, earned the highest distinction in the Red Dot Award for the best of the best in product design for its concrete wall decoration tiles. Its Shadow tiles are made of recycled concrete that consists of 50% disused ceramic.

European wallcoverings company Omexco released its Rainbows collection made from bakbak (an innovative product of banana fiber), recycled sari silk and crushed paper. Squares of crushed paper, printed in faded shades and glued on a non-woven backing, are in perfect harmony with the bakbak and the natural silk. The non-woven wallcoverings are ecological, are FSC® certified (license code C001706) and are printed using solar energy.

Find more products by Omexco here.

recycled materials Rainbows wallcoverings collection by Omexco

Rainbows wallcoverings collection by Omexco


Lucirmás atelier, founded by Italian designer Lucia Bruni, brings excellence to sustainable glass design. This year, the company commissioned Nutcreatives to design LaFlor Lamp, an upcycled glass bottle with a copper shade recaptures the lasting beauty of a lamp.

Eindhoven-based Korean/New Zealander WooJai Lee turned newspaper to pulp and mixed it with glue to be used like a brick or wooden plank in a range of furnishings. Speaking of paper, this year Procédés Chénel International launched its first edition of So Paper, a competition for artists and designers to concoct an object from recycled paper.

Recycling to Create Soul, Not More Junk

“I do not recommend [recycling] just for the sake of reuse,” Brazilian artist and designer Domingos Tótora told ArchiExpo e-Magazine. “The pieces have to have meaning, they have to create emotion.”

“There are different kinds of recycling. We have to be very careful. Otherwise, instead of creating pieces with soul, the result is more garbage.”

In southern Minas Gerais, nature is lush with its mountainous backdrop. Tótora lives and works in Serra da Mantiqueira, where his life is in direct contact with nature.

“I wake up when it is still dark and go to sleep very early; I live in daylight, and I preserve the night to store the dreams that materialize in brightness.”

Tótora recognized a pileup of cardboard packaging in his town, and began recycling and transforming it to create incredible furniture pieces that resemble art. He later began commercializing his furniture thanks to Sossego, modern Brazilian design distributer.

His technique? He soaks the cardboard for 24 hours before transforming it into pulp in an industrial blender. The mix, as he explains, yields a cellulose mass which is aggregated with glue.


“The dough is made in a bakery trough adapted for such use. With the mass ready, objects begin to be molded. The final product has the fingerprint of the one who molds it. After drying, the piece is very tough. I often say that the cardboard comes from wood and when recycled it goes back to it’s origin—back to being wood again.”

Tótora is currently developing pieces that “reflect the layers of earth in the cuts of a ravine where sediment appears.” He likens it to the old house building technique called “Taipa de Pilão” where the walls are built of successive layers of earth. His work will constitute a mass of cardboard into which the natural earth pigment is incorporated.

Low-Impact Living

Sustainable living means cutting energy consumption, an increasingly crucial step found in the various stages of design. Many innovations begin with the home, like the Smart Radiator Valve by Starck for Netatmo, which cuts up to 37% of domestic heating energy consumption. But one of the home’s biggest concerns remains the textiles.

Fabric manufacturers must reconsider the way it uses raw materials, according to IPSO. Netherlands designer Nienke Hoogvliet draws attention to a new material that could “offer a solution for the sustainability issues in the textile industry”: sea algae yarn. In the project SEA ME, the designer knots the yarn by hand into an old fishing net. Sea algae, explained the designer, grows faster and needs less nutrients than cotton.

Watch the video of RE-SEA ME, a continuation.

SEA ME by Nienke Hoogvliet . Photography by Femke Poort

SEA ME by Nienke Hoogvliet . Photography by Femke Poort


Certain brands, like Sunbrella, have already incorporated sustainable methods into their textile production. After decades of experience in sustainability, Sunbrella has evolved into one of the most exemplary sustainable brands on the market.

Check out the new products by Sunbrella on the online exhibition site ArchiExpo.

In 2011, Sunbrella added a solar array to its plant in North Carolina which generates enough energy to power 47 homes and has reduced the plant’s annual CO2 emissions by 1,000 tons (907.185 metric tons).

The Sunbrella Renaissance furniture fabrics collection combines up to 50% post-industrial recycled Sunbrella fiber with virgin Sunbrella fiber to achieve vintage charm.

Sunbrella textiles

Courtesy of Sunbrella


Its fabric is certified to contribute to healthy indoor air because of its low chemical and particle emissions and, recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, aids in the prevention of sun-induced damage to the skin when used in shading products.

No Sunbrella manufacturing facility in the world sends waste to landfills.

The Doorway to Tomorrow, Today!

No longer sending waste to landfills is a major step towards the zero-waste trend, which hits the interior of a home or building as well as its structure and exterior.

At Stuttgart University, they’re working on developing projects that generate interactive rooms and versatile exteriors under what they’ve coined the “Triple Zero” concept, a description of the characteristics that buildings must have to be sustainable.

Recently constructed, Paris opened its first zero-waste house” on July 1, 2017. The center unites the actors of the movement, citizens and entrepreneurs. On wooden shelves, the shop offers the classic range of durable, unpackaged items that avoid components such as sulfates, silicone and parabens. French designers Julien Phedyaeff and Christopher Santerre, selected by Maison&Objet as Young Talents, will see their Increvable washing machine exhibited at the zero-waste house in October 2017.

Zero Waste House in Paris. photo: © www.StefanoBorghi.com

Zero Waste House in Paris. photo: © www.StefanoBorghi.com


In Barcelona, IKEA and Fab City Global Initiative have launched a Fab City prototype. They’ve followed the rise of the maker movement and the vision of self-sufficient cities to experiment. They’re challenging thinking and engineering processes to reach a more sustainable product system in cities.

Read more about the project here.

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