Global Approaches to Upcycling: Plastic bottle lights transforming lives

Upcycling is something natural and something very human. Creativity in a practical sense is not unique to designers. While upcycling has taken of as a trend in many countries, showing people both the value and the beauty of reuse, it is also changing lives. You can find upcycling pretty much everywhere, whether it is intentional or purely practical and out of necessity. Different countries and cultures will take on different approaches to upcycling but ideas seem to be everywhere. Alfredo Moser a man living in Southern Brazil has invented a very simple light using a plastic bottle some water and a drop of bleach. These incredibly cost effective lights are changing the lives of countless people in the Philippines where these ingenious inventions are being installed to save people spending money on very expensive electricity. It shows that sometimes the best inventions are the most basic ones.

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A very green bus stop

This bus stop in central Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is arguably one of the most beautiful bus stops in the world. The long winding road leads straight into the CBD from the beachfront suburbs of St Helier’s and Mission Bay. Dwarfed by two huge towering trees and with great sea views this little shelter is not a bad place to wait.

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The DO School Sustainable Cup Challenge

Disposable cups make a huge contribution to the amount of waste we produce, it is probably not something many of us think about when we’re finishing our morning coffee. However, how could we create a product that will be both recycled and easily recyclable?

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Are you a budding designer? In our previous post we talked about the DO Fellowship opportunity.

The DO Sustainable Cup Challenge  aims to help the selected Fellows to create an innovative and sustainable to-go cup.  They will also be expected to develop the related infrastructure and create a campaign for New York City. The Fellows will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics from leading experts,  including the environmental impact of packaging and materials as well as about recycling systems.

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By tackling the Challenge, Fellows will have to learn how to turn an idea into action by using a hands-on approach. Fellows will also work on developing their own venture idea into a viable plan, that is ready for implementation during the following ten months in their home countries.

Calling all young entrepreneurs!

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The DO School is offering a unique one-year program for emerging social entrepreneurs that will provide training, mentoring and empowerment to young entrepreneurs to help them start their own ventures. Selected Fellows will receive a full scholarship covering the tuition fee for the year.
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The DO School invites applications from motivated individuals from around the world to participate in the DO School Sustainable Cup Challenge. Applications are now open to young people aged between 21 and 28 and will close on September 15th 2013. Successful applicants will show exceptional motivation to contribute to solving the Challenge and will be encouraged and supported to develop their own social venture and in the areas of eg. sustainable product design, campaigning and branding, environmental activism, recycling and waste management.

The DO School Fellow Group

The DO School Fellow Group

The programme will run from February to May 2013 and the selected Fellows will spend the first 10 weeks of this one-year program on the DO School pop-up campus in New York City! The following 10 months will be spent in their home countries implementing their own ventures.

Huts for Humanity on Film

A lovely little video of Huts for Humanity created by the London Chapter of Architecture for Humanity for Clerkenwell Design Week that took place earlier this year. This shows how the huts worked in practice and features short explanations for each hut.

The Living Furniture Project – The Social Impact of Design

The Living Furniture Project is a design studio and workshop with a social purpose – creating jobs for the homeless. Located in East London, an area with a visible housing problem, the project aims to encourage training and creativity to address this growing problem. It not only highlights the issue of homelessness but also takes a positive and practical approach in attempting to solve it.

LFP's workshop and showroom in Clerkenwell

LFP’s workshop and showroom in Clerkenwell

The People Behind the Project
The Living Furniture Project involves a number of design creatives and experts in reclaimed materials, these include:

– contemporary upcycling luminaries Donna Walker and Nic Parnell,
– Geoff Walker who has twenty six years experience in bespoke carpentry and has designed the stylish interiors of bars like Barrio East and Dalston Superstore,
– Sarah Baulch, who has been regularly featured in Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and on TV for her upcycled fabric designs,
– Yinka Ilori, a prodigy designer regularly asked to exhibit his furniture in Berlin, Milan and London,
– Kat Wight, an acclaimed pattern designer who previously worked for Laura Ashley,
– Kat Hamer who is an Australian eco-fashion designer and social entrepreneur, and
– James McBennett, founder of innovative furniture start-up Fabsie.com

Emerald Chair Collection

Emerald Chair Collection

Tackling Homelessness
The company works in partnership with two homelessness charities – Crisis and Providence Row, who refer their clients to the workshop for a range of paid and unpaid training and work programmes. Each Apprentice is given technical training, structured mentoring and pastoral support – a personal development programme which has been designed in conjunction with the partner charities.

The project has taken on two homeless Apprentices since launching in January 2013, and is taking on two more in May. The aim is to employ ten Apprentices by the end of the year. Apprentices will stay with the company for up to six months and are then helped with finding a job elsewhere in the furniture industry.

“The first time an Apprentice finishes a piece can get quite emotional – holding something unique in their hands and thinking – I did that.”

Donna Walker, designer on the project, explains her motivation for joining “I like the idea of skill-sharing, I use it a lot in my own work – I learn making skills from my colleagues and I teach them mine in return. So skill-sharing with the homeless is my way of giving back to the local community.”

Designer Nic Parnell adds “I like the idea that a high level piece of furniture can be made by anyone, of any skill level, if they’re given the proper tuition. I’m very excited to be part of the project.”

Emerald side cabinet by Nic Parnell

Emerald side cabinet by Nic Parnell

Sustainability
The Living Furniture Project source all their materials sustainably – using reclaimed plywood or shipping pallets, or restoring old pieces they find in salvage yards, skips or on the street. The company already has a network of spotters and collectors who identify opportunities to reclaim waste in the construction, textile and manufacturing industries. Below is a short video explaining how the Living Furniture project works and how you can buy bespoke made furniture from them.

The Living Furniture Project – How to buy furniture from us from Alastair Sloan on Vimeo.