Since my last post, I am still thinking a lot about the importance of HOW we design products and develop materials that have a life above and beyond its first. Many expound the virtues of the closed loop design (also known as a cradle to cradle concept), but often the most affordable and sustainable use for a product is in a second life that does not mirror the first. Take the lifecycle of carpeting for example: Mohawk Industries recycles billions of plastic soda and water bottles (PET) every year as the primary content for polyester carpet fiber. In turn, Mohawk takes post-consumer carpet, or used carpet, and reclaims and recycles it through advanced technologies that break down the carpet fiber into densified nylon pellets. These pellets are then used by the automobile and aeronautics industries.
Over the past few weeks, I have had several impactful conversations regarding design and product lifecycle. Just this past week, I had the benefit of spending time with Todd Oldham in his Manhattan design studio. Many of you might know Todd from his HGTV program Handmade Modern and Bravo’s Top Design. A longtime champion of smart, sustainable design on Handmade Modern, he frequently demonstrates his work with found materials and employs multiple uses for products – making his designs not only sustainable but extremely practical and frugal.
When Todd first began working with Target Stores in 2001 to design a line of products for dorm rooms, he encouraged the use of creative boxes, which would double both as packaging for the kitchen utensil kit (marketed to college students with first time kitchens, limited space and limited budgets!) and storage. Years later when Todd designed for FTD, he again created the flower box to double as an attractive storage box, thereby reducing waste and creating a second life for the packaging – a brilliant reflection of Todd’s understanding of and commitment to sustainable design and second-life products.
As we continue our evolution of – and momentum toward – truly smart, sustainable design, there is clearly a need for more designers like Todd Oldham who are willing to carry this theme in fresh and creative ways throughout their work and partnerships.