This column will veer slightly from the norm. I’m not going to discuss complementary colors, why anything silver is so out, or which trendy fabric your clients don’t even know they want yet.
I’m going to talk about planting the seeds for environmental
change—and yes, it has everything to do with interior design.
Recently, I was given the assignment to attend EnvironDesign8, a
mid-April conference devoted to offering comprehensive perspectives
on global environmental stewardship and sustainable development.
It is produced by this magazine’s fellow publications Interiors
& Sources and green@work.
I spent a good amount of time strolling through the Product Learning
Center, talking with exhibitors who clearly believed in being agents
of environmental change—not just when asked by a client to
do so, but as the first consideration for their work.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Here’s an example on how a company you probably have heard
of is making a difference in today’s throwaway society. Ever
heard of MechoShade? Exhibiting at EnvironDesign8, MechoShade previewed
its revolutionary new EcoVeil™ shade cloth for solar shade
systems. Here’s why it’s so special. EcoVeil is designed
to be what is called a “technical nutrient,” evaluated
for its impact on human and environmental health. MechoShade intends
that EcoVeil be kept in a “closed loop” for perpetual
use at the same level of quality as originally intended, not “down-cycled”
into a product of lesser value.
MechoShade president Jan Berman stated firmly, “Once you are
through with the shade, send it back to be recycled.” A new
EcoVeil product will be created from it, of the same quality as
the original. It is a “cradle-to-cradle” product versus
a “cradle-to-grave” product—and that’s a very
powerful thing to be.
Here’s a company I know you’ve all heard of: Hunter Douglas.
As one of the sponsors of the EnvironDesign8 conference, Hunter
Douglas displayed its Nysan Shading Systems, a series of environmentally
sensitive sunscreen products, in the Product Learning Center. Hunter
Douglas first combined energy efficiency with window converings
fashions with its Duette® honeycomb shades. The company also
sponsored all of the recycling bins at this year’s conference.
Other companies aware that there are no short-term fixes to green
design, theory and materials use were Maharam, which is committed
to the implementation of progressive environmental practices as
a matter of corporate and design philosophy; Designtex, which currently
offers the world’s broadest range of sustainable textiles and
recently introduced its McDonough & Braungart IV Collection,
its first collection consisting of both biological and technical
nutrients and is 100 percent biodegradable; Arc-Com Fabrics, which
has expanded its collection of eco-tex sustainable textiles to include
upholstery fabrics; and Interface Fabrics group, showing Terratex™
fabrics, made from 100 percent recycled materials using increasingly
sustainable manufacturing practices to produce a quality product
that is again recyclable at the end of its useful product life.
A COMING TOGETHER
This cradle-to-cradle mentality was also eloquently addressed by
keynote speaker and former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt.
In this appearance, sponsored by MechoShade, Babbitt took to the
podium, riveting the audience with an Earth Day call to action,
employing his concept of “American Restoration.” Before
beginning, however, he first acknowledged that this national gathering
of environmentally conscious people was inspiring. This wasn’t
a meeting of some narrow occupational category or limited to those
wearing a particular fraternal badge, but “a coming together
for a thematic approach to change.”
Even with his soft-spoken, thoughtful delivery, however, it was
chilling to hear him state with such certainty, “The fabric
of our rivers, our ecosystems and forests is being degraded and
torn apart by the heedless way we thoughtlessly use our resources
and spread our presence across the landscape.” This lamentable
degradation, Babbitt reminded us, does nothing to protect our heritage
and preserve the diversity and beauty of our natural systems. Yet,
by using care in the designing, specifying, buying and consuming
of products and companies, we can make a difference and garner “a
sense of spiritual and biological value . . . that reflects the
beauty and depth of creation.”
So, the next time you specify wall coverings, take time to determine
if there are no PVCs, no vinyl and no off-gassing. The next time
you specify a shade, ask if it can be recycled once it is no longer
useable. The next time you buy a bolt of fabric, discover if it
has been made from 100 percent recycled materials. This is not a
passing phase. More and more of your clients will ask for green
products. It’s up to you to do the rest.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Interiors & Sources
magazine and sustainable design, please visit www.ISdesigNet.com.
To learn about green @work and sustainable business practices, visit
Kathleen Stoehr is president of Chemistry Creative, based in Minneapolis,
MN. She has more than eight years’ experience covering trends,
window treatments and interior fashions, and is a former editor-in-chief
of Window Fashions magazine. Stoehr can be contacted for comments,
queries and trend information at kstoehr@chemistrycreative.