The Holy Grail of Materials

How to future proof your business and start using cleaner, greener materials

In the business world today, we are faced with many pressures, ultimately the big one is profit margin, of course, business needs to be sustainable, and by that, I don’t just mean products and design that doesn’t leave a footprint, it still needs to be able to sustain us, as people, in a community and present us with opportunities. But, we can do it a little differently and bring the other sustainable beast into the room too, the one that is lean, green, and good for the future of people and the planet. 

In my endeavours of searching for materials and applications to reach the holy grail, I have found my top 5.

1. Mushrooms for building

Mushrooms, or the tendrils of mushrooms, the mycelium is creating a scene in the construction industry.   Mycelium is an ever generating resource, continually growing and spreading its thread-like roots to produce and create new building materials.   You can make materials to be worn or used, construction walls, insulation, architectural and design pieces, and they even have the power to eat plastic and styrofoam.  Projects such as The Growing Pavillion show that whilst the building is being constructed, it is actually growing, the mycelium is also capturing twice its weight in carbon instead of regular buildings emitting 3 times the amount of emissions through the construction phase.  Whilst mushrooms and the power of mycelium are in their infancy, the building and construction industries are waiting patiently for this technology and the benefits of it to become mainstream.



2. Cigarette butts into plastic products

Cigarettes don’t have much going for them, they produce toxic chemicals, are a health risk and the benefits are nill.  But in the meantime they are here to stay and whilst we can still purchase cigarettes, there is always the waste stream produced by the tobacco industry and the users.  Whilst all of this is quite negative, there are solutions being dreamed of and implemented to tackle cigarette waste and making new products with them.  Enviropoles is one of these solution-based businesses.  They install cigarette poles in community spaces, office blocks, and whatever else they are commissioned to do.  Smokers put their butts in the bins which are then Terracycle who clean and pelatise the plastic remains of the cigarettes and send this off to companies like Replas who remanufacture the waste into new functional products, like park benches, bollards, and signs.  It’s not going to stop plastic waste, but it is definitely going to change business and promote the circular economy.

3. Keep your beers cold without a bad conscience hangover

Styrofoam is a killer, it’s pretty good at keeping things cold though.  Remember hot summer days, cold beers, backyard cricket, and the BBQ.  In the past, we had ecologically unfriendly styrofoam coolers, but just recently Igloo has designed a new, functional and biodegradable cooler Recool that will not see the local wildlife mistakenly eating it and dying or our future generations still finding styrofoam in the ecosystem.  So you can keep your beers cold without having a bad conscience hangover.

4. Vegan leather that is not greenwashed

One thing I love about this period we live in is that there is a multitude of solutions being dreamt and innovated.  Whilst Greta Thunberg is protesting our governments and raising the issues about climate change and the security of the planet, there are entrepreneurs like these two friends from Deserto who have reimagined leather made from cactus.  This is not a greenwashed version of the other vegan leathers that we have had to circulate in the past 2 years, which really are PVC and toxic polymer-based materials that do not biodegrade but make you feel better when you buy them because the marketing is good.  No, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez have claimed to have made a responsible product that mimics leather, is completely non-toxic, and is not made using phthalates, or PVC in their design.  



5. Pulp fiction or real solutions

Imagine a world where you could buy products like cars, electronic goods, furniture that when you are finished with it, you could simply plant the carcass and return it back to nature, knowing full well that it won’t pollute, or create further environmental issues on the planet.  Zeoform is that material.  The team at Zeoform has been making and manipulating the nano cellulose fibres over the past 30 years making instruments, furniture, and consumables that are planet friendly and will not leave more waste on this planet after they are used and you are done with them.   The incredible Zeoform Micro Pulp takes cellulose fibres and technological know-how to recreate anything in your wildest dreams.  Zeoform is taking to the world stage after having a business sabbatical and are tackling large industries and companies to ensure that the next generation of products don’t leave a legacy we all have to clean up.