Published on 2023-04-21

Earth Day: Green & Sustainable Materials Our Designers Love

This weekend the world will come together to celebrate Earth Day. In the past, we’ve talked a lot about the role design plays in sustainability and the health of our planet — whether it was highlighting products that allow parents to leave the car at home, new materials in bicycle design or designing the next generation of green buses


As designers, we’re lucky to be working at a time when sustainability isn’t just becoming a priority for brands, but there are a lot of innovative materials and processes being explored and developed. So this Earth Day, we sat down with our CMF Designer Viktorija Šarlāne and Creative Engineer Hans Gutter to discover some of their favorite green materials being used right now. But, both cautioned, that these materials are only part of the bigger picture.

“There are a lot of clever, green materials out there today,” Viktorija explained. “But when considering the sustainability of a product, you have to think about the entire product lifecycle, from design and production and packaging to use and disposal.” 

“And especially when looking at these renewable or recyclable materials, we as designers have to assess how they impact that,” Hans explained. “For example, aluminum is recyclable and can be a sustainable choice, but because so much energy goes into harvesting the raw material of it, to make the most out of its sustainability, you might want to use it for a product that is going to last and be used decades.”

Circular design is something that both agree on, too, saying designers need to think about durability, and if the product or material can be repaired or reused, whether it’s soft or hard goods. “That also means prioritizing timeless design over capitalizing on seasonal trends,” Viktorija told us. “That’s a great way to promote a longer lifecycle and sustainability.”

With all that said, Hans and Viktorija do have a handful of favorite smart, green materials that are being used in design right now. 

Swapfiets has taken an important step in its ambition to have fully circular bicycles on the road by 2025, now partnering with Vittoria2Go which supplies tires as a service. Made of graphene-reinforced compounds for increased grip and longevity, the Vittoria2Go tires also feature an anti-puncture layer that provides added resilience. “It’s also important to note that this partnership encourages the design of products that are durable, maintenance-friendly and easy to repair,” Hans told us. “It also creates this important feedback loop where users can share insights with the supplier, in turn driving innovation.”

Companies like Colorifix are working to minimize the environmental impact of industrial dyeing by replacing chemistry with biology at every step in the process, from the creation of the dyes to their fixation into fabrics. There are also companies like FiberColors* which use a patent-pending technology that transforms pre-and post-consumer fashion and textile waste into upcycled colors. The colors are synthesized from a minimum content of 50% waste-based raw material, contributing to the circular economy in fashion & textiles. “As a CMF designer this is really top of mind for me,” Viktorija tells us. “If we can focus on developing sustainable coloring processes that minimize waste and reduce the use of harmful chemicals, we can make a big impact on the sustainability of our products.”

Companies like Plantics and Sustān are creating new and unique biomaterials, like bio-resins and biopolymers. Circular and produced from plants, these biomaterials are not only sustainable, but have a lot of potential applications. “Applications for some of these newer biomaterials aren’t always widely known or used, but the more designers who are aware of them and understand how they work, the more opportunities we can create to design products that integrate them,” Hans explained.

Designers Sarmite Polakova and Mara Berzina have developed a new production method that takes fibers otherwise bound for incineration and makes them into a sturdy bio-textile suitable for fashion, interior and product design applications. “This is one of my personal favorites because they found a completely new way to use these fibers,” Viktorija explained. “The result is this lightweight, leather-like material that showcases the previous lives of each worn garment.”


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