Interior designers Chloe Bullock and Sadie MillerMaggs uncover the exciting next generation materials for vegan homes.
As vegan designers, our definition for ‘sustainability’ avoids animal products and animal abuse. Instead of using ‘traditional’ animal products, petrochemicals and harmful chemical processes, we prefer to use specifications that are problem solving, low impact and healthy for those using the spaces they are in.
The best interior design is not using any new materials at all. Second best is designing out of waste, reusing what we have and ensuring those materials have a long life and are non-toxic and easy to biodegrade at the end of their life.
We want to share our exciting research into next generation materials and products that are in development, as well as some that are ready to buy now that include problem waste materials and innovation.
We’ve read lots about the great leather alternatives in fashion, such as mushroom, cactus, pineapple, apple, wine production waste and cork.
The good news is that we are seeing these animal leather alternatives translating into our homes (and cars) as well. So let’s have a look at what else is happening in our industry…
Vegan materials made from food waste
There are some clever initiatives turning the food waste problem into good things. Tomas & Jani, based in Sussex, make furniture from FSC certified sustainable timber board with a tough decorative finish made from coffee waste.
This innovation uses a little of the 250,000 tonnes per year of wet coffee waste grounds typically bound for landfill.
The global juice industry produces bout 16 million tons of orange peel every year! Finnish company Caracara Collective turns about 20 squeezed oranges into a decorative lampshade, which can be supplied with a pendant or wall mount kit.
Each lampshade is the by-product of someone drinking two litres of orange juice.
Finnish company Caracara Collective uses squeezed oranges to make its decorative lampshade. Photo © Caracara Collective
Using industrial waste to make vegan materials
A recent study found that in the UK alone, 43.9 million tons of industrial waste is produced each year.
Many designers and manufacturers are designing materials and products solely focused on reducing the industrial waste going to landfill, often in the form of sheet material.
Welsh company Smile Plastics are creating high quality, characterful products made from a variety of post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastics such as yoghurt pots and cosmetic pots.
Foresso are making furniture from their terrazzo-like panels made using a minimum 65% waste material sourced within Britain, including wood waste from sawmills and waste plaster.
Barcelona-based Honext have created a silver Cradle To Cradle certified sustainable fibreboard using 100% recycled paper. The board is bio-based, zero-waste and resin-free, perfect to replace MDF boards. It can be laminated and routered. Their aim is to have their production plants at landfill depots to divert the waste straightaway.
Smile Plastics uses post-industrial recycled plastics such as yoghurt pots and cosmetic pots to make its eco-friendly materials like these colourful plastic planks. Photo © Smile Plastics
Solutions using recycled PET bottles can currently be found used for textiles, rugs and duvets, as well as apparel. Weaver Green produces rugs and cushions that are doubly good as they come with the important GoodWeave certification because the ‘who made this?’ element of sustainability must not be forgotten either.
Note though, avoid high temperature, long cycle machine washing of items to prevent the shredding of microplastics into waterways and seas.
Look out for use of the recycled yarn in furniture, fabrics, carpets and also apparel, often under the name of Econyl. Sedna Carpets have created a soft carpet collection made from 100 per cent recycled old carpets and abandoned fishing nets.
Retrieving ghost nets provides fishermen with an income offseason as well as using a problem material. Around 640,000 metric tons of fishing gear is abandoned annually, killing millions of marine animals, as well as creating navigation hazards.
Fishing for Energy pays fishermen to collect ghost gear, which is then recycled into yarn or incinerated to generate electricity, thus offering the fishermen an alternative income during off-season times.
Sedna Carpets have used recycled carpets and abandoned fishing nets to make their soft carpet collection. Photo © Sedna Carpets
Microplastics are a huge problem for the paint industry. Has Graphenstone created an ecological solution? Their plastic and chemical free Ecosphere and Biosphere products are organic lime paint with natural graphene fibres.
The palest shades even absorb and capture CO2 as they cure. These paints are nontoxic, and virtually VOC free, so good for healthy indoor air quality. These two ranges have Cradle to Cradle Gold third-party certification.
Another innovation we love is mycelium! This is a fungi grown using agricultural waste, quickly produced, unlike traditional leather whose resource intensive process of raising livestock, can take years.
Graphenstone's organic lime paints are free from plastics and harmfull chemicals. Photo © Graphenstone
Some of mycelium’s many interior applications are flooring and wall tiles by MOGU, and ‘grown to order’ lampshades from British companies Tŷ Syml and Biohm, as well as Amsterdam’s Grown.bio.
As with all innovation – it’s a smaller scale production initially and once economies of scale start to happen these will become increasingly affordable.
Thanks to these dedicated innovators who push the boundaries, tackle waste and invest in innovation to provide these alternatives. We hope our community can support them.
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Featured image credit: onurdongel via Getty Images