When we consider why we should choose sustainable products and materials in our design, the answer is simple: Because we only have one planet earth and if we do not find ways to keep our life on earth sustainable, life will cease to exist.
When we consider this massive impact that we, as designers and the renovation industry in general, can have on our planet, it is crucial that we take into account the products and materials we can select that can make a difference for the good of our planet.
We have rounded up some of our most favourite sustainable products and materials in this post, but this list is by no means exhaustive, and everyday, creative people are coming up with new and innovative products and materials that will help sustain our earth.
ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES
We all know and recognize the blue symbol of energy star appliances and appliances with this label should be chosen whenever
possible. Not only do these appliances reduce your monthly energy bills, but they have a better energy impact on our planet. Quality appliances that will last 20-30 years. Contrary to popular belief, the use of small appliances can often be more environmentally friendly using their larger built in counterparts, but careful consideration needs to be made as to whether the smaller appliances will be used and what kind of end of life cycle they have.
Incredible style, 100% recyclable and a sustainable manufacturing process? What could be better than that? Geon Tile is a Canadian designed tile company by our friends at River City Tile Company and their handcrafted cement tiles are a great choice for the eco-conscious homeowner. The company prides itself on sustainable manufacturing practices and the cement tile product is 100% recyclable at the end of its life. They also manufacture a sealer that is low in VOCs, even lower than the LEED stated minimum . In addition to this, Geon Tile is generating carbon offsets to account for the emissions of their operations and logistics.
URBAN GRANITE STONE REMNANTS
Stone remnants are the leftover bits and pieces of granite, marble, quartz etc. after countertop fabrication. It is very rare for an entire piece of stone to be used in one application so there are almost always leftovers. These can be used for smaller projects, such as a powder room counter, or for custom made furniture. The idea is to use something that has already been produced, instead of selecting a brand new slab every time we need a little piece of stone to finish a project. In the image below, we selected a remnant piece of quartz and added it to custom made legs to create a one-of-a-kind craft table that was durable and beautiful. Whenever possible, we try to select remnant pieces for projects so we are using up items that have already been fabricated.
The art of manufacturing linoleum is a process whereby natural raw materials are mixed and require time to cure and mature before the next production step. Marmoleum is a type of linoleum that is made from these natural raw materials. Flax plants, which provide the vegetable linseed oil, jute, are used for the mesh carrier on which linoleum is calendered and wood flour obtained from the waste material of production forestry, all during their lifetime capture CO2 which is absorbed in the plants and trees that are used to manufacture linoleum.
Forbo Marmoleum is the only CO2 neutral resilient flooring material (from cradle to gate). They also manufacture a furniture linoleum that is a natural product made from natural raw materials that has very low emission. The furniture linoleum can be applied to furniture and cabinetry to create a one-of-a-kind, environmentally friendly design.
FLOR and its parent company Interface, are dedicated to creating a world with less carbon emissions, more recycling, and well designed area rugs. FLOR creates carpet tiles that are made with a backing material that is made of post-consumer carpet tiles, bio-based elements, and pre-consumer recycled materials that are net carbon negative. These sustainable rugs are beautiful, easy to install, and a breeze to clean and maintain. Their sustainability efforts are unmatched by other flooring companies and 100% of electricity used in their manufacturing site is from renewable sources. FLOR collected and recycled over 64,000 carpet tiles in 2020 alone. Their Factory As Forest program aims to go beyond just doing less harm, and start to actively benefit our planet.
Chop Value is a one of a kind company that started in Vancouver that is diverting used chopsticks from our landfills. They have collected almost 54,000,000 chopsticks and re-used them to create furniture, decor items, games, and more. By producing these items in “micro-factories” they have a lean manufacturing process using locally available resources to minimize their environmental footprint. After collecting chopsticks from their recycling partners, they process them into a new composite material to create high-performance sustainable essentials engineered for a second life.
AdrianMartinus is another company that is using materials on their way to the landfill to create products that can be reborn and reimagined.
AdrianMartinus was founded by brothers Adrian and Martinus Pool in 2012. As carpenters, they were frustrated with the construction material waste they encountered on worksites, and as avid skateboarders, they sought to give new life to broken skateboards.
Working in their parents’ Calgary garage, they began turning hardwood flooring and broken skateboards, many of which were generously donated by local skate shops, into art pieces and home décor.
Since 2012, AdrianMartinus have progressively upgraded their tools and machinery, expanded their woodworking knowledge, and evolved their collaborative aesthetic. Although AdrianMartinus now also utilize new materials, they continue to carefully repurpose a variety of woods, always refining design and production processes in order to create unique products with as little waste as possible.
They recently won Etsy’s 2020 Design Awards Grand Prize for the recycled skateboard credenza pictured here:
The interior design industry as a whole is making more sustainable decisions as we learn how important these impacts on our planet are. There are numerous other positive effects to these decisions, such as higher quality materials, greater durability and less maintenance, healthier products and practices as well as natural resource conservation. There is no longer a question of whether we should choose sustainable products and materials, as good design and sustainable design are now seen as one in the same.