Categories
Thursday
Feb132014

Stone and wood, at home on the range 

You’ll find almost no plastic in this new ranch by Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, just wood, stone, space and beauty.

Tuesday
Feb112014

The Pottle: elegant alternative to the plastic coffeemaker

Plastic and coffee just don’t go together. And cheap plastic coffeemakers seem to be the very model of planned obsolescence. Fortunately, there are affordable alternatives to the $6,000 La Marzaccos you see in the best cafes.

The Pottle by the Japanese artisanal company Noda Horo is a beautiful enameled steel pot that goes on your stovetop. The company has been in the enameled kitchenware business since 1934, and they seem to have pretty well mastered the art. “It’s no fun if it’s just about function—there has to be beauty to it,” company president Koichi Noda told Monocle magazine. And he should know—he designed the Pottle.

So the next time your coffeemaker breaks down, consider this elegant alternative from rural Tochigi. It’s built to last and look good doing it.

Friday
Feb072014

Cork table sits, stays, doesn’t roll over

It’s either a dog that sits up and begs or a cork table that transforms into a desk. According to its designers, U.M. (for Users and Makers,) it’s the latter.

The U.M.O. has a cryptic name to go with its cryptic function, but it’s versatile and plastic-free. Made from just cork and aluminum, it will also float in your pool (not recommended.)

Thursday
Feb062014

A catamaran powered by ocean plastic waste 

It’s estimated that every year as much as 26 million tons of plastic—ten percent of what we use—ends up in the oceans. There it breaks down into tiny particles—up to two million bits per square mile—and is often ingested by fish, birds and marine mammals.

To some, the prospect of cleaning all that plastic from our oceans seems overwhelming. And even if we could clean it all up, what would we do with it? Adrian Midwood, of eco-group Ocean Ambassadors, and Tim Silverwood of beach cleanup initiative Take 3 have created a remarkable solution by collecting ocean plastic and converting it to fuel to power their boat, the SV Moana.

The boat uses the Blest technology developed by Japanese inventor, Akinori Ito, to convert ocean-borne plastic into fuel oil. As the Moana and its crew pulled into Newcastle Harbour in Australia last week, crowds gathered and questions flew.

"Doesn't it produce any toxic chemicals?"

"Nothing dangerous is produced in the conversion," Midwood answers. “A very small amount of biochar is produced, but it can be used for many agricultural purposes."

Over the last few weeks, the Talking Trash Tour has taken the crew around Australia’s East Coast and to the islands of Fiji and Tonga. For Silverwood, the most gratifying part is the sense of empowerment people feel when they see plastic being cleaned up and used to replace petroleum (which also fouls the oceans.) “Knowing that even that one bottle cap or bag isn't going to exist in the ocean forever—won't be killing a bird or a turtle—a simple action can have a massive benefit,” he said.

The Blest technology that powers the Moana empowers its users as well. “There is a limit to what can be achieved by collecting large amounts of plastic by truck, separating the plastics and turning it into oil,” said inventor Akinori Ito. “On the other hand, using small-scale equipment and converting the plastic waste at the point of production is more efficient. Yet for this to become a reality, it was essential to develop a simple machine anybody can operate.”

By comparison, the U.S. burns nearly 97,000 tons of plastic every day, mostly in large-scale energy recovery facilities. Mr. Ito puts the concept to work right where it’s needed. In the case of the Moana, that means scooping up plastic ocean debris and using it to power the boat, which serves as the Ocean Ambassadors’ flagship. 

Wednesday
Feb052014

The devil wears plastic: post-apocalyptic fashion by Catherine Young

Not many artists hope their work will never get adopted by the masses, but Catherine Young is one. That’s because her designs envision a post-apocalyptic planet ravaged by climate change. And while resilient design—design that accepts and adapts to climate change—is becoming the norm in architecture, Young is one of the first to bring it into the realm of fashion.

Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet, began with a walk in the woods. Actually, forty-three walks in the woods, as she climbed all the mountains surrounding the city of Seoul, where she was completing a residency. That got her thinking about our impact on nature. A follow-up residency in Singapore found her asking questions like, “What would you like to wear to your apocalypse?” That could have led to some pretty grim answers, but Young sees her work as an opportunity to educate others about the threat of climate change and inspire them to take action. 

“I consider myself as someone who works at the intersection of art and science by bringing them together through design,” she says. It’s clear that her post-apocalyptic fashion statements will affect most people more than another report on rising temperatures and sea levels. But does the trend toward resilient or post-apocalyptic design lull us into accepting an impending ecopocalypse of our making? Young doesn’t think so, saying, ”It's projected into the future: What would happen if we don't do something about it now?"

Still, you might want to keep an eye out for signs that the post-ecopocalypse era has already begun. Sea wall projects in Manhattan, the abandonment of low-lying islands, shifting climate zones—the signs are everywhere. Can you spot them on the street and in the fashion choices of the people around you?

[top] The climate-controlled Bubble supplies oxygen and features wireless communication capabilities

[above] The Thermoreflector reflects heat from the atmosphere

[below] The inflatable Aquatutu helps its wearer stay afloat during floods

[bottom] The Trash Suit, made from reused plastic scraps, “for when real fabric becomes too expensive to use.”