So I have a constant battle which rages inside my ‘designer/maker’ brain… “Is what I’m doing beneficial or detrimental to the environment?”
A quick recap to put this question into context…. in 2012 I set up Tane Furniture Design, after 14 years working within various sectors of the design industry. I wanted to start something with meaning, I was pretty sick of doing things which I felt had no real purpose (except for my work at the Adelaide zoo). Most of all I wanted to do something that makes a real difference.
Now I love design and I love making things, and this is where the conflict lies, in our current materialistic world do we need more stuff!! We surely have enough chairs, tables, lamps and any other product you care to mention, but our thirst for the new, and fashionable drives the industry forward. So the question is if this trend continues what can I do as a product designer to make sure the things I design and release into the world have minimum impact before during and after the lifespan of the object?
And that my friends is my overarching objective! I thought, I would set up business and start producing 100% ‘green, environmental, sustainable’ products and the world would be a better place. I placed little value or focus (in my original business plan) that the world is economy driven with green issues being pushed far far behind monetary. Sounds obvious, I hear you say! Maybe in hindsight yes but when you have a vision you believe in, you think that ‘surely it must work’. After one year in business, I was broke and in debt, I needed to find balance.
Balance… this is where an even greater quandary enters my mind! As it now appears that the thing I am doing to create financial balance is actually more ‘eco, environmental, green, and sustainable’ than my work with producing new designs… I started to restore old furniture, this not only generates short term income to develop my own products but gives me great satisfaction in seeing these fantastic old pieces given a new lease of life, AND keeps them from land fill for another 20-30 years.
Whereas… My latest furniture release the Groove floor lamp is produced from components sourced and manufactured in Melbourne. In fact the shade is produced from fabric hand-printed by Ink & Spindle on organic cotton and hemp, the bamboo is cnc cut by Like Butter, both business are located in the same space as Tane Furniture in Kensington. So the local collaboration aspect is good, materials are good, but what about the afterlife of the product, well the bamboo is compostable and the shade too, but they need to be separated and this is where my concerns lie, will someone actually take the time to dis-assemble the components. We offer a take back service, but will people pick up the phone and call.
I wrestle with these thoughts on a daily basis and sometimes it can stifle creativity, as you can start thinking negatively about everything you try to create. Recently I am of the mindset that my vision is true, my ethics are good, I now need to generate money through products and restoration that can be driven back into research and development to product truly 100% ‘environmental’ products, that at every stage from design, development, production, throughout the objects life and after they are not harming our environment and in fact will eventually enhance it.
This I now know is not going to be easy and I will need to sacrifice some of my beliefs in order to achieve this long term goal. I know that it is going to be impossible for everything immediately to be completely environmental. But I truly believe that a green economy can be created, in which money and environment concerns naturally drive each other and sit equally at the top of companies considerations.