Back in February, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver opened his show with a hilarious segment of reporters who all agreed that “infrastructure is important, but not sexy.” As crucial as infrastructure improvements are, Oliver proclaimed that “most people actually think it’s boring!” (Unless, of course, the infrastructure is blowing up in an action movie.) But in reality, Oliver admitted that he thinks infrastructure is quite fascinating.
Photo via Collectively.org
I would argue that the same holds true for manufacturing. It’s not a word that typically riles up the masses. It’s never trending on Twitter, and there isn’t an app that would make manufacturing any more sexy (with the exception of 3D Printing). Yet, the manufacturing industry touches almost everything we use. As you may have read in our latest Uncommon Design School post, in the decades preceding the first Earth Day “the manufacturing industry was more interested in making green than going green: factories belched out clouds of black smoke; toxic chemicals were dumped carelessly, polluting the soil and groundwater; and bottles, cans, and paper were all destined for the landfill after just one use.” Well, could that sound any less sexy?
Photo courtesy of Barry Rosenthal’s Studio Tour
Lucky for us, this 20th century model of capitalism is becoming less and less acceptable. According to B Lab Co-Founder Jay Coen Gilbert, we are moving toward a stakeholder capitalism, where business is not only concerned about creating value for shareholders, but also concerned about creating value for society, the workforce, the community and the environment. Organizations like B Corporations are making sustainable business more important and attractive to consumers. In this way, I would argue that sustainability is one of the main factors that make manufacturing a really cool topic. Green design is only becoming more innovative and valuable than it’s ever been.
This realization got us thinking: What are some of the most surprising, head-turning green materials in our assortment this Earth Day? What are some of our newest items that make us excited to talk all things materials and manufacturing?
Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug
The Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug immediately caught my eye the day it entered our assortment. As I was reading the product description, I was particularly impressed that this artist uses the discarded bicycle tire tubes, gathered from bike shops in her area, and yarn scraps reclaimed from industrial production. I was even more intrigued how this hand woven rug seamlessly combines Old and New World techniques. But it was one concept in particular that made my head tilt sideways: this item is “waste negative,” meaning it removes waste from the environment, rather than adding to it. Brilliant!
Recycled Plastic Duck Family
Whereas reuse is the reinstallation of materials in their original form, recycling is the collection and remanufacture of materials into a new material or product, typically different from the original material. Handmade from recycled newspaper, recycled water bottles and clay, this Duck Family is a very creative example of attractive recycling.
Fire Hose Products
Here at UncommonGoods, we are huge fans of upcycling, the process of converting old materials into something useful. When you upcycle an item, you aren’t breaking down the materials, but refashioning them. As the Upcycling Fashionista puts it, “upcycling only requires your own creativity and elbow grease.” Micah Landworth’s line of fire hose products is a really unique way to transform discarded materials into something beautiful and true to its original character.
Pride & Prejudice Throw
I immediately loved this throw because P&P is one of my favorite novels and movie adaptations. What makes this throw truly special, though, is how it’s made. The makers repurpose, or adapt, pre-consumer cotton scraps, and shred and spin them into new yarn. How cool is that?
Vegetable Parchment Platter
Artist Margaret Dorfman has been part of the UncommonGoods family for more than 15 years. She has an extensive jewelry collection that’s made by hand from over 40 different varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that are cured, dried, pressed and aged in a 10-14 day process. She calls this Vegetable Parchment, because the texture and translucency calls to mind the vellum parchments of medieval Europe. I was really excited to see that she is expanding this technique into other products besides jewelry. Even more awesome, her new Vegetable Parchment Platters are made with recycled glass.