Thinking Sustainably: 6 Materials with Planet Earth in Mind

22/04/2021

Earth Day tropical forest
chokniti / stock.adobe.com

We all know it’s not enough to just drink from a reusable water bottle or bring an organic tote bag to the supermarket when it comes to thinking sustainably, we need to make these changes as often as we can in every aspect of our lives. With the environment at the forefront of the minds of both consumers and producers, from food and travel to clothes and homeware, we're all much more conscious of how our choices impact the world around us.

We believe there’s no reason to sacrifice on style just because you want to take the planet into consideration and there’s no better way to decorate your home than with products that have a positive impact on both your interior and the environment. And whilst no material is perfect, there’s options out there with common characteristics that impact on the planet on a much lower scale. So, in celebration of Earth Day we’ve rounded up the top six sustainable materials you should keep an eye out for...

mater outdoor furniture sustainable material
Mater
mater outdoor furniture sustainable material
Mater

Amid the present eco-boom, phrases like ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are thrown around a lot across the industry and as a consumer, it’s important to know whether what your buying is actually sustainable or not. Luckily, for those looking to shop with the planet in mind, there’s plenty of brands and makers who want to change manufacturing for the better.

Whilst shopping locally for second-hand finds is a sure way of knowing you’re getting the most sustainable option, sometimes thrifting doesn’t yield the results you’re after. So, if you are buying new it’s worth doing a little extra research and take a little more responsibility for your purchase.

A pile of wooden logs prepares for the wood industry

Wood

Durable, renewable, and recyclable, wood is considered the ultimate sustainable material. Wonderful to look at and work with, it’s no wonder craftsmen and consumers alike can’t get enough. Wood sourced from sustainably managed forests is a renewable material thanks to forest stewards who manage the landscape and prevent damage to eco-systems, wildlife, and the trees themselves. Sustainable wood has been grown-to-last, whereas wood from unsustainable sources is chopped down without a second thought, adds to the global deforestation problem, and leaves behind a scarred space that struggles to recover.

How can you know your wood has come from a sustainable source? Organizations like The Forest Stewardship Council are the original pioneers of forest certification, using their expertise to promote responsible forest management they’re aiming to improve forestry practices worldwide and promote sustainable use, conservation, restoration, and respect for all. By choosing FSC certified wood when shopping you’re helping to support their cause and promote renewable wood for generations to come.

recycled glass vases
Nkuku

Recycled Glass

Forever enduring, glass is one of the most recyclable materials on the planet, 100% recyclable in fact, and can be reused time and time again; today’s waste can be melted down, reshaped, and repurposed into tomorrow’s art.

Glass starts its life as a raw material, such as sand, soda ash, or limestone, which is combined at very high temperatures until it’s melted and turned to liquid. Salvaging unwanted bottles, jars, glasses, or decorative objects to a life of doom and gloom before they reach a landfill, these shards are melted down and many pieces are then mouth-blown by skilled artisans and transformed into something new.

recycled leather mats
LIND DNA

Recycled Leather

The leather manufacturing industry generates an alarming amount of solid waste, on average around 50% of the initial raw material, however as it’s a sought-after material in home and fashion so brands have had to get smart with a recycled leather alternative.

Made up of unwanted leather scraps and offcuts, usually collected from old furniture, garments, or even shoes, mulched into shreds and combined with water and binding products like wood bark or rubber, this new leather pulp is then formed into a sheet and processed into a specific size, colour, or even texture. By reusing and repurposing leather, the demand for virgin leather (and the harmful production process it requires) will ultimately be reduced.

kartell bio collection

Recycled Plastic

Recycling plastic isn’t new to anyone, from separating your household waste to choosing to opting for reusable alternatives, it’s a concept we’re all familiar with. From furniture made from recycled ocean plastics to home accessories sourced from bottles, the plastic revolution is here.

Now pioneers of plastic, Kartell, have created a new material: Bio. Created from waste materials from farm production materials and biological processes, the waste generates into a biomass that’s like plastic and is refined until the biomass becomes a material of the highest quality. Kartell are the first company in the furniture industry to test this material in injection and moulding, just like they did with plastic.

cotton field
Faustino / stock.adobe.com

Organic Cotton

Cotton, like most crops, remains a resource, labour, and energy intensive substance to grow, in fact it takes approximately 20,000 litres of water to grow just a single kilogram of cotton, about enough to make a single pair of jeans and a t-shirt. So how can organic cotton be more environmentally friendly than regular cotton? It’s all down to the use of chemicals. Conventional cotton is responsible for around 16% of the world’s chemical insecticides and 7% of pesticides; several which have adverse effects on the surrounding environment, eco systems and health of farmers.

Produced and certified to organic agricultural standards, organic cotton is grown without chemicals or harmful fertilizers, farmers use natural methods such as composting to create healthy soil, has less impact on the air and uses 88% less water. When it comes to environmental impact, organic cotton is considered the better of the two.

sika design rattan furniture
Sika-Design

Rattan

Durable, lightweight, and attractive, rattan is a naturally renewable palm. A vine like species that grows in tropical regions of Africa, Australia, and Asia, it grows seven times faster than wood and each vine can grow up to 200m in length. Harvesting is done by hand and the tip of the vine is then replanted so the growing process can be quickly and efficiently repeated. Once the outer layer of skin has been peeled away, rattan is flexible yet study material and can be weaved into various shapes and no part of rattan is wasted, even the core will be used to build something.