Joining the Wave: The future of eco-conscious product design

2602-2An overpopulated, polluted world exhausted of its natural resources is suddenly consumed by nameless disaster. The temperature is rising and supplies are running out…what will you do? This might sound like a premise for a science fiction movie or video game, but from an environmental perspective, it’s an inevitable consequence of the way we’ve been living since the dawn of the industrial revolution. It’s also the last thing you want to worry about at bedtime, yet these apocalyptic visions dance beneath the surface of the headlines each morning.

You may feel powerless, but you are not a character in a Greek tragedy; you are part of the solution. Changing the future of the world is possible today and easier than ever, thanks to the steady growth of the green trend. Now it seems each decision at the grocery, in the mall, or with the contractor has become a moral crossroads: to buy green, or not to buy green. Companies are now making everything from skyscrapers to potato chips in greener ways, realizing they can market their pledge to the environment and cut costs in the long run. Even big-hitters like Walmart and Nike have jumped on the bandwagon. So, what does this mean the world might look like in 50 years if we take this green trend and run with it? Here is a look at some of the hottest green product designs from around the world:

Green Transport: Cars Grown in the Lab

7 The future of travel could act more like a tree than a car. Cars could be grown in a lab rather than built on the production line, says Mercedes-Benz. Their vision for the future of the green automobile was showcased at the Los Angeles Design Challenge. The Mercedes-Benz Biome is a super-hybrid car that’s grown in a lab using natural processes.

“We wanted to illustrate the vision of the perfect vehicle of the future, which is created and functions in complete symbiosis with nature. The Mercedes-Benz Biome is a natural technology hybrid, and it forms part of our earth’s ecosystem. It grows and thrives like the leaves on a tree,” says Hubert Lee, head of the Mercedes-Benz advanced design studios. This vehicle forms a seamless part of the ecosystem through green technologies. Most of the energy used to power the vehicles comes from the sun; the energy is then stored in a lightweight, grown material called BioFibre. BioFibre is lighter than metal or plastic and stronger than steel. As a result, the entire vehicle would weigh about 875 lbs; it is completely biodegradable. The Biome also uses natural fuel and releases oxygen rather than harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. With its unique diamond-shaped seating arrangement and fully customizable array of options, the car is “grown” to meet each customer’s individual needs.

Green Building Design: Sustainable Living Spaces

All aboard the Ark Hotel! This giant floating donut is a “biosphere,” a safe, self-contained haven designed to sustain tidal waves, flooding, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. The Ark Hotel boasts a green, independent, self-sustaining environment for guests. It is powered from a combination of solar energy, wind energy, and thermal energy; it also has a rainwater collection system. The lush vegetation in the large greenhouse refreshes the supply of oxygen and provides food sources, and the see-through structure reduces the need for lighting. To ensure the quality of light for both plants and people, the frame is protected with a self-cleaning layer. The Ark was designed by the Russian firm Remistudio with the assistance of the International Union of Architects’ program, Architecture for Disaster Relief.

This might look like a spaceship to you, but the core concepts are key. This is a sustainable environment that doesn’t leave a big, black carbon footprint on our natural world. Architects, construction companies, and home and business owners are now in a position to create sustainable structures. Alternative energy systems are becoming more affordable and popular, the use of sustainable and recycled materials is already in full swing, and architects are constantly looking for new solutions to the growing demand for renovation and new construction. The U.S. Green Building Council estimates we’re building and developing twice as fast as the population is growing, which means we would need over 100 billion square feet of new space by 2030. Space is getting tight, so renovation is more popular. But every new building built between now and then is an opportunity to continue the sustainability trend, using green materials and designs to create a healthier environment for our children.

Eco-Couture: Luxury-Eco Fashion

77 Green is in, and it’s here to stay. The fashion industry is no exception to the green movement; many designers use recycled and sustainable materials in innovative ways in an effort to move towards a zero-waste goal. Bamboo, Hemp, Jute (a popular Indian textile), and recycled cotton and polyester blends are some of the materials to look for in stores. If you want to go green but still want high-end apparel, check out the work of “luxury-eco” designer Linda Loudermilk. She is one of the founders of the eco-fashion movement and uses only exotic, self-sustaining plant materials to create chic professional and urban wear. Her list of materials is unusual and on the cutting edge of the sustainable market: sasawashi, seaweed, soy, corn, and bamboo. Groundbreakers like Loudermilk aren’t alone in the eco-fashion movement. There are a growing faction of designers who are using their talents to create beautiful clothes with the earth in mind, fighting for cleaner water, less waste, and production techniques that use the least amount of energy. Do your part by buying only recycled and sustainable materials and supporting companies that are conscious and mindful of their impact on the earth.

What do these designs mean for the future? Will these lofty visions become commonplace? Will 50 years from now look like the Jetsons or a scene from The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood’s unforgettable work of “speculative fiction,” an all-too-real vision of a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by man himself? It all begins with you and which path you choose to follow, whether you’re buying dish detergent or building a new home. Choose the greener way and you will lead by example. Those around you will do the same, and another ripple will gain momentum, joining the wave of positive change that is sweeping through our world.

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