Second Life SolidWool

SolidWool are a brilliant young company making beautiful items from Herdwick wool.   Hannah and Justin Floyd do an amazing job of designing, manufacturing and marketing their products made in England from British Wool.  Recently we have been working with SolidWool to help find a second life for wool carpets… Full story below.

The SolidWool story is at SolidWool

 

solidwool1

SolidWool table and chair made from recycled wool carpet.

400,000,000kg of carpet fibre is disposed of each year in the UK! Carpet recycling UK have done a great job of diverting almost 1/3 of this into recycled products like Crumbwool carpet underfelt. But we still have a long way to go and we are not even touching post consumer wool carpets.

Recycling is good, but up-cycling is better. By creating added value, sought after products from rescued wool fibre we hope to inspire more investment in up-cycling.

We asked SolidWool to help us on our recycling challenge and they made us these amazing chairs and a coffe table from post-industrial rescued carpet fibre, seen here on the Wools of New Zealand stand at Domotex.

solidwool2DSC_0212

Thanks to Carpet Recycling UK, Anglo Recycling and SolidWool for helping us ensure wool fibre has a second life.

more detail on this story on the Great Recovery website.

 

The Perils of Fast Fashion in Interiors

Interior fashion cycles are getting faster with the gap between the catwalk and interiors stores getting shorter all the time.  Associating interiors brands with celebrity and high fashion can be good if this lifts the perceived value of an item, which is then treasured for its aesthetic and its quality.  The manufacture of heirloom pieces is great for building long-term robust and sustainable value chains.  When true craftsmanship is rewarded and quality materials are sought after then the people that grow fibre, sew garments and weave carpets and fabrics all can share the rewards.

It all falls apart however if we follow the fast fashion business model. If textile mills and retail outlets focus on fast turn-around of low quality items from non-sustainable value chains we end up creating waste, using more energy than is required and supporting the throw-away society.

It is better to create beautiful textiles from sustainable materials and to build them well so they last a long time, rather than to manufacture oil based products with the promise to recycle them one day.

The fast fashion culture encourages corners to be cut and lives to be endangered, think Rana Plaza.   This is not just an apparel issue.  There are carpet schemes that guarantee no child labour, but do not take care of the children that are banished from the rug mills.  Those children sometimes move to more dangerous factories.  No we don’t want six year olds making our carpets, we want them in schools paid for by the sale of carpets.

There are rug retailers that push so hard on price that the weavers are forced to use extremely low quality materials and pay very poor wages.  Eliminating unnecessary waste and reproduction is the best thing we can do for the planet and for the people that live here.  Buying something cheap with the aim of throwing it away is the worst legacy we can leave behind.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

I used to be a…

This pencil used to be a CD case.

This pencil used to be a CD case

Pencil from the Royal Society of Arts “This pencil is made from UK recycled CD cases”

The pencil is a brilliant piece of marketing. It allows the Royal Society of Arts (from whom I stole it) to gently remind its visitors about the need to be responsible in designing products.

There is no hard sell, no advertising, no interruptions, just for those observant enough, a though provoking piece of plastic that talks to the integrity of the organisation and asks the questions; Do you know where your materials are coming from? Do you know where they go?

If your product cannot be turned into something new, you have a design flaw.  What can we do with wool and textiles?

Designing Smarter Textiles

Recently I was asked about the integration of electronics into carpets and textiles and what my ideas are to bring this inevitable merger together.

That got me thinking… Is it inevitable?

“Should we be designing smart textiles or should we be designing textiles smarter?”

Yes the Internet of things sees us all being ever more connected, phones are now wearable, your shoes can now talk to your smartphone. There will certainly be a continuation of miniaturisation, automation and personalisation that will make our digital lives seamless. But does it necessarily follow that everything will become smart?

Perhaps the true value of soft furnishings is comfort and style and a release from all things technological?

Anthropology cannot be separated from your future trend mapping. We have to plan textiles that will enrich people’s lives. Textiles need to respond to basic human needs before they can change the TV channel, and lets not forget that good health is a human need. Do we really want to plan a society that is full of lazy, gadget-dependent couch potatoes?

Textiles need to be pure, recyclable, ethically produced and beautiful. Once we master that we can soften the digital world by wrapping it in our woolly luxury.

I’m all for better homes and workplaces and better technology. Safety is a brilliant place to innovate new textiles that will monitor people and their habitats. Ultimately textiles are about comfort; from bearskins in our caves to sheepskin rugs by our curved screen TV’s.

Yes there is a trend to digitise life, but its one trend that responds to a sub-set of human needs. There are many trends that ignore digitisation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t develop smarter fabrics, I’m just saying we should always ask why.

The favourite chair in my house is in a room with no TV.  The furnishings in this space are about escape, switching off, comfort and colour.  Its a space for real human interaction.

Perhaps the smart way to design textiles is to keep them dumb?

 

Desso phillips carpet

Desso use transparent carpet which allows LED’s to shine through.

 

Measuring Goodness

We (Industry & Brands) have a habit of measuring goodness by highlighting the bad things we stopped doing.  We think we are sustainable as we are polluting less, wasting less energy, using fairer labour.   We are planning to do less bad and have a net zero effect on the planet.

This “less bad” attitude is just not good enough.   The true measure of sustainability has to be about what positive impact our value chains have on the people our products touch in their creation and their use and their re-use.

We use only renewable energy is a step, but if it meant putting C02 into the atmosphere for the 1000 tonne concrete base of a wind turbine then it is really just less bad than burning fossil fuel.  Planning to need less energy is better than finding slightly cleaner energy.   It can take 30 years for a wind turbine to become carbon neutral!

What kind of earth do we want our grandchildren to inherit? I vote for a clean one with 9 billion happy people.

We get to Utopia by imagining the ideal planet and by building smarter value chains.   We measure sustainability by what we do to reach Utopia, not by measuring the stupid activity we reduced.

We remember the athlete that wins the race, not the guy that went from last position to somewhere in the middle.   We can celebrate success when the rivers are clean and the people are fed, we should not celebrate that we still have landfill, just not as many as we might have done..

earth from apollo 8

Finite Earth from apollo 8

Future Materials.

Remember Crumbwool?

Crumbwool is a carpet underlay which is the result of a partnership between Wools of New Zealand and Anglo Recycling.   It’s made from 100% recycled content,  Wool carpet off-cuts and discarded car tyres.   The proceeds go towards the Woodland Trust.

Its a nice story that underpins the integrity of the world’s most sustainable wool (Laneve)

Actually that’s a bit modest,  Creating Crumbwool meant developing a dedicated machine and some quite remarkable logistics and industry arm twisting.  Anglo Recycling worked a minor miracle to make this possible.

We built the Crumbwool story for the right reasons.  We did not do this for fame, we did it for integrity and to build value.

Now Crumbwool has been listed by Future Materials magazine in its top 100 innovations!

So we are getting noticed, for the right reasons.  The website is www.crumbwool.com

crumbwool creation

Crumbwool is created

Wool Season

It’s Friday afternoon, the last friday before Christmas.

This will be the last WoolBlog post for 2013.   The blog has been found 27,844 times as I write this.  You might be visitor number 27,845 (sorry no prizes).

A friend sent me a Christmas message today with the picture below.  Although obviously missing one of the best opportunities of the year to send sheep pictures about, I think this is a brilliant reminder of why we need natural and therefor biodegradable products.

Where are the sheep!

Where are the sheep!

After we unwrap our presents next week lets all recycle the packaging.

It’s time to put down your iPad, turn off your PC, Put the phone on silent and go have a brilliant festive season with the things that really matter – the people you care about.

Look forward to more sheep antics and sustainable woolly rants in 2014 – thanks for reading WoolBlog