Designers Boris Berlin and Poul Christiansen of the Danish design company Komplot, designed a chair that can be pressed into shape from a single piece of industrial felt. The felt is made from recovered polyethylene terephthalate–aka PET– from used plastic water bottles. Because of the fact that it’s pressed from a single sheet of felt and heated to permanently take its form, it has no need for any hardware, glues, or other additional reinforcements (thus its namesake).

The Nobody chair can be easily stacked for storage and also can be recycled in the future. I think it’s a beautiful design, not to mention very clever, but I am a bit skeptical about whether or not the manufacturing process is sustainable or not.

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For my final sustainable bookshelf ideation, I wanted to break away from the conventional vertical orientation of a bookshelf. I began to investigate my options for different ways of interacting with the books as well as the orientation of the structure. Generally, bookshelves stand vertically and the books are placed horizontally along the planks, with books organized in a vertical fashion. This structure defies the standard bookshelf, first of all with its dynamic shape, and next, with the way the books interact with the product.

Originally, I considered using chair legs and arranging a frame by creating joints, then fabric would be used to support the books. However, if I take into account the amount of time I need to find the material and construct everything, it seems like I will be biting off a bit more than I could chew. Instead, I want to use layers of recycled cardboard for the legs of the frame, and the fabric would be tied to holes within the cardboard. Also, the directions of the legs will create a W shape, leaving the user with the option to use them as modular structures. The structure would also allow for users to place seats on top, thus transforming the item into a seating structure as well. Negative space on the underside also provides more space for storage, reflecting the idea of how a bookshelf no longer functions merely as a storage unit for books.

This ideation stemmed from a conversation I had with a friend about products made of reclaimed materials being made with a high level of intent, thus increasing its value. Chair legs would be arranged to extend from a post, creating a sculptural tree-like form. Rather than resting on the branches, the books would hang from them. This unconventional bookshelf design blurs the line between something being more functional than decorative or vice versa. It can be understood to be either a sculptural element or a functional element, depending on how consumers approach the piece.

Continuing with the idea of utilizing reclaimed materials, this ideation takes drawers from unwanted pieces of furniture and gives them a new purpose. A hole would be drilled at the top to work with a recycled glass jar underneath, creating more use for storage. Prior to designing these sustainable bookshelves, I came to the conclusion that the bookshelf no longer just stored books but rather displayed one’s possessions. The glass jars’ transparency simply reflects that idea. I didn’t like this idea to much because again, it seemed like a one-liner. Taking a drawer and turning it on its side so that it functions as a shelf. Boring!

As this project shifts gears and works toward designing sustainable versions of a bookshelf, I came up with a few ideations that utilize reclaimed and recycled materials. With this first ideation, I thought of the standard wall-mounted shelf, generally made of wood, plastic, or metal. For my design, I would utilize recycled aluminum extrusions with a support made of woven recycled fabrics. I wanted to make sure that I could take advantage of the fabric panels, to experiment with different patterns and textures. This design, I would hope, defies the traditional ‘hard’ nature of the shelf and proposes an unexpected ‘soft’ alternative. Don’t worry, the fabric would be held taut thanks to the aluminum rods, thus allowing a significant amount of weight to be placed atop the surface.

For another design, I begin to place value within unused materials by giving them a new life and purpose. There are so many times that I come across piles and piles of unwanted items, and it’s amazing what kinds of things we can discover at dumpsters. That’s why I designed this wall-mounted shelf that would be made of reclaimed materials. Whether it be a license plate or a bundle of rulers, it can be customized to be used with whatever products are found. I thought this idea was efficient in transforming unwanted materials into something more desirable, but I realized that the idea in itself seems too ‘easy’. It really seems like a generic, sustainable design of a generic wall mounted shelf, so I continued to rummage my brain and came up with more sustainable bookshelf ideations.

Gail Tverberg dives deep into the problem of an unsustainable present and offers solutions that promote a sustainable future for our planet and the people that will reside within it.

I came to realize all the more, how much this society thrives on consumption of materialistic goods. It scares me because I know that this materialistic society won’t be allayed any time soon. Rather, people will continue to crave the bigger and better things.

Our Finite World

We live in a world with very limited solutions to our sustainability problems. I often hear the view, “If we would just get off fossil fuels, then our society would be sustainable.” Or, “If the price of oil would just go high enough, then renewables would become economic, and our economy would be sustainable.”

Unfortunately, our problems with sustainability began a long time before fossil fuels came around, and the views above represent an incomplete understanding of our predicament. When fossil fuels became available, they were a solution to other sustainability problems–rapid deforestation and difficulty feeding the population at that time. Getting rid of fossil fuels would likely lead to very rapid deforestation and many people dying of lack of water or food. If getting rid of fossil fuels is a solution to our predicament, it is one with very bad side effects.

A couple of different events this…

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This chair by designers at Cuatro Cuatros was made with sustainability in mind. It can be flat-packed and transported, and the assembly of the chair requires zip-ties to secure the faces together. However, I wonder how sustainable the material is, and I’m not quite sure if using plastic zip-ties are any more eco-friendly than a traditional adhesive.