Category Archives: Product/Furniture

new Emeco Navy Chair made of 111 recycled plastic bottles

Debuting at the Milan Furniture Fair this past spring was one very familiar looking chair.  The iconic Emeco aluminum Navy chair was developed back in 1944 and is a widely recognized symbol of mid-century American design.  However, this years fair saw a new Navy chair that despite all the familiar lines was something all together different.  Dubbed the 111 Navy chair, this chair is composed of a specially formulated composite containing 111 recycled plastic bottles.  The chair is part of a joint venture between Emeco and Coca-cola, and is over 4-years in the making. The result is a strikingly colorful plastic version of the original classic that carries a message to consumers that up-cycling our plastic waste can be both viable and beautiful.

The 111 Navy  is constructed from a hollow one-piece injection molding with a semi-gloss scratch resistant surface. It comes  in 6  bold colors including Coca-Cola red, snow, flint gray, grass, persimmon and charcoal.  The 111 recycled PET bottles make up about 60% of the chair which is reinforced with glass fiber to achieve the desired structural integrity.  Around 300 million recycled Coca-Cola bottles will go into 1 year of production for the chair.  This is just a fraction of the bottles Coke produces but regardless is an impressive example of upcycling use for soda bottles.

Coca-cola has long been involved in various large scale projects attempting to reinvest the company and it’s brand in better recycling strategies and awareness amongst consumers.  This particular venture is also unique in that it resulted in a product that is not immediately identifiable as being part of the Coca-cola brand.   In fact, the designers stayed quite true to the original Emeco chair. Rather than emblazoning the chair with Coke’s strong visual equities, as with other promotional objects, they restrained themselves to including just a small raised bottle detail on the top of the chair back.  Other than a familiar color scheme, what’s really left is a nice plastic version of the classic aluminum design, with the balanced visual appeal and heritage of the original Navy chair.  What I find most interesting is the way this product ties together two, previously unrelated, classic American design icons of such differing recognition.  This may be appealing merely for its irony, but regardless it creates an interesting narrative.

Recycling, and more specifically upcycling remains a challenging proposition to most companies.  The crux of the problem is that the business and infrastructure for collecting usable waste materials like plastic bottles remains  fragmented and under-serving to the volume created.  This is compounded by the fact that a growing global economy insures that inexpensive raw materials are always available.  Certain materials may have great potential for becoming more widely used manufacturing stocks, but there must be a greater effort to consolidate the collection, cleaning, and processing of such materials before the demand for producing mass market products can be met.  It will be expensive to implement, but has long term advantage to whomever captures ‘the stream’. Coke just took one step closer.


IBM takes on the devil in the details

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One of the greatest challenges to businesses pursuit of sustainability is understanding the vast interconnected supply chains that all products inevitably relay upon.  In truth a company can only claim they are environmentally responsible if they’ve taken into consideration the broader impact of all the individual components, materials, and packaging that contribute to the overall business.  The complexity of trying to measure one’s impact in terms of things like energy use, emissions, and waste is that those metrics exist not only for the company whose name is on the product but also for the myriad of supporting companies whose own products and services go into the making of that final entity.

In the last few years many organizations have attempted to address this challenge through the creation of standardized assessment tools that apply a scorecard approach to each individual product.  These assessments are often based on applying generalized values to various aspects of a product; such as the materials used.  But the utility of such tools is often limited because the amount of information needed to populate the equations is simply unknown or unavailable.  To contend with this issue many of the larger consumer product companies have had to take it upon themselves to organize this information, which means demanding their suppliers provide more accountability.  This is an approach pioneered by Wal-mart which has been able to extract mountains of environmental data from their suppliers by establishing sustainability guidelines for many of the products they sell.  Nothing seems more typically American then a major corporation leveraging its size and dominance in a market to pressure it’s suppliers into meeting demands, But using that power for good, well that’s a new twist.

The New York Times recently reported that IBM has launched a new supply chain initiative requiring all of its suppliers to employ some form of environmental management system and to begin tracking environmental data like energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.  The initiative is a first step in cleaning up IBMs global operations which involve suppliers in 90 different countries worldwide.  IBM has thus recognized the fundamental roll that data plays in any sustainability measures.  Once they have a picture of their global impact across the entire supply chain they will be able to create a far more strategic plan for improving their efficiency and reducing waste and emissions.

IBM has taken things a step further by requiring it’s suppliers to publicly publish all their environmental findings and to forward the mandate on to their own subcontractors and suppliers.  The goal to capture any and all environmental data contributing to the massive IBM supply chain will be critical to the companies future decision making with regard to sustainability.  To encourage compliance form it’s suppliers IBM has played that ultimate power-card; If you don’t have a data monitoring system in place  by 2011, you know longer do business with IBM.

link to NYtimes

a better scrubber means goodbye detergent!

Goodbye detergent! is a new line of environmentally friendly scrubs that aim to clean-up your home cleaning habits.  Made with naturally abrasive materials such as recycled corn cobs, peach pits, and walnut shells, the line of reusable scrubs is meant to help reduce the need for conventional soaps and detergents.  By matching the abrasive qualities of these natural materials with specific household cleaning needs, the company has created range of scrubs designed specifically for different home surfaces and cookware materials.  The scrubs also feature minimal packaging made of 100% recycled material.

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It is widely known that many household soaps and detergents contain toxic or otherwise harmful chemicals.  These substances pose a threat not only to our personal health, but also to the environment, as they eventually make there way into our ocean, and river systems.  This is an issue that is currently being addressed by the myriad of “natural” and “non-toxic” cleaning products already available on the market. The eco-friendly scrubs from Goodbye detergent! seek to take this idea a step further by  reducing the need for soaps all together.  So regardless of what soap you use, you can be at least a shade or two greener by simply using less of it, and using a better scrub.

The Scrubs are designed by industrial designer Hiroki Hayashi. All the products are made in Japan and have been awarded numerous international design citations.  Goodbye detergent! scrubs are available at and other major online retailers.

a flexible solution to the plastic bottle glut

Though bottled water is often maligned by the more eco-conscious among us, it’s basic convenience is undeniable. This is the reason that in the U.S. alone we consume around 28 billion bottles of water each year, and that number is increasing.  Luckily there has been a major movement as of late to promote the use of reusable water containers of all shapes, sizes and styles. Now there’s a new option for those “bring your own bottle” types, but this one is hardly a bottle at all.  Vapur is a fully flexible, reusable water container that offers a unique alternative to one-time-use plastic water bottles.  The plastic pouches are designed to be flattened, rolled, and folded away to fit in your pocket, purse, or briefcase for optimum portability and efficiency.  The 16oz containers come in a variety of colors, are dishwasher safe, and come with resealable spouts and sport caps just like conventional bottles. At a cost of just under $9 a pouch Vapur is looking to be an attractive option for those looking to ditch the disposable plastic bottle.

Many are surprised to hear that nearly half of all bottled water comes from municipal sources, in other words its just tap water put I a bottle and sold at the store.  Even more striking is the fact that in many instances there are lower health and quality standards placed upon bottled water than those placed on public sources.  But the primary issue of course is the waste generated by disposable plastic bottles.  Though they are recyclable, four out of five bottles still make their way to the landfill.  And considering the plastic required to make them is a petroleum derived material, there is plenty of reason to just steer clear of the bottle option all together.  Here in New York City we are blest with some of the best tap water in the country.  Even more reason to consider shifting your hydration needs over to a reusable option such as Vapur.

new frontiers in ethical footware from terra plana

I first came across Terra Plana shoes quite by accident about a year ago and was immediately impressed by they’re unique aesthetic and use of traditional craftsmanship.  This was before I learned that the company also differentiates itself through a very environmentally and socially conscious approach to making and designing shoes. The brand’s eco-credentials come from their use of recycled rubber, vegetable tanned leather and other materials such as re-used lasts – the wooden tool used to mold shoes.  They also employ the use of stitched constructions to avoid the use of adhesives and glues, which often contain harmful chemicals.  All of these material elements are combined with the latest in technology to provide remarkably light-weight designs, including some very ground-breaking products like their VivoBarefoot line which attempts to replicate the benefits of walking barefoot. The Vivo line was even featured in the London Design Museum publication  50 Shoes that Changed the World.

reused quilt boot

Some of Terra Plana’s recent offerings take things a step further by incorporating reclaimed South Asian quilts into their designs. The vibrant cotton quilts come from the traditional work of the Kuch tribe, residing in parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh. By incorporating the quilt work, the company is helping to support a regional hand-craft industry rather than relaying on large factory produced alternatives.  Since different quilts are applied to the same designs the customer is able to have their own unique pair, as each shoe includes a different section, pattern and color.

the apple ipad: just a begining

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Wow! I can’t believe how much debate is flying around about Apple’s new product, the iPad, which they officially introduced yesterday. People expect a lot from Apple these days, and apparently they get really upset when the newest  apple product just isn’t something they instantly want. Though I do understand some of the criticism, I feel much of the feedback is a little misplaced. Interestingly enough, much of the most vehement negative commentary is coming directly form some of apple’s biggest devotees; creatives.  It’s widely known that many of apple’s most ardent followers lean heavily on the creative side of things, i.e. designers, artists, etc.  They are upset because they expect apple products to be ‘tools’ for their creation of work and expression, and the ipad is clearly NOT intended for producing any type of content, but rather for consuming it.  And that’s fine. If the recent success of e-readers like the Kindle has taught us anything its that there is a momentous shift underway to bring every last shred of existing media, art, and entertainment content to a digital audience. Creating an attractive and well designed product with which people can experience this transition of content, is certainly a legitimate cause for a new entry form apple. I think it’s pretty clear that, in typical apple fashion, this a preemptive entry into a still developing market, just as the now iconic iPod was nearly a decade ago.

The one thing I will agree on with the dissenters is that the name “iPad” is absolutely horrible.  Can’t win em’ all apple, try again.

best of 09: greener electronics rankings

Earlier this month at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Greenpeace announced their most recent “Guide to Greener Electronics”.  The guide is meant to compare and rank the leading electronics manufacturers  regarding the use of hazardous materials within their products.  Greenpeace takes its judging criteria a step further by assigning points for those companies who not only reduce their use of certain substances like PVC plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFR’s), but who also support current legislation to ban and control such substances. The guide also looks at the recycling and reuse of a company’s production waste as well as all their discarded, obsolete products already in the waste stream. Many companies such as Dell have set up special programs that allow their customers to recycle they’re old PCs and monitors.  This is a relatively new business model for most manufacturers, and it has spread to many other industries. Though much of the reasoning behind companies that attempt to take responsibility for post consumer waste has to do with boosting their brand image and answering a generally raising popular expectation, there have been a few to actually create new business opportunities out of the waste they are reinvesting in. We’ve seen a lot of this in the packaging sector, with companies like terracycle, however it’s still a tough scenario to achieve within the consumer electronics industry.  With rapidly emergent technologies, and fast changing trends, electronics brands deal with a special problem regarding the almost unavoidable obsolescence, real or perceived, of their cell phones and computers within a few years of purchase.  There have been efforts to create strategies that would reuse such products by creating sub markets of “refurbished” products, that are sold as low cost alternatives or provided them to emergent markets in the third world.  This approach may have some merit but have yet to show a more compelling business or even social case (a topic for a later post).

While GreenPeace is well known for their environmental advocacy around the world, it was interesting to see them delve into the tech-mess that is CES.

Here are the top ranking companies:

1. Nokia – 7.3/10
2. Sony Ericsson – 6.9/10
3. Toshiba – 5.3/10
4. Philips – 5.3/10
5. Apple – 5.1/10