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How to combine design and sustainability?

Date: 02/10/2020

How to combine sustainable consumption and design?

Sustainable consuming is very current topic in the design world as well. This can be noticed in design and interior magazines, companies’ marketing and in consumers’ behaviour. A good an example is this year’s Habitare –furniture exhibition. There is a separate ethical area –marketplace and at least one discussion or presentation about sustainability.

Transformation towards sustainable action is on-going. Manifacturing companies can be really innovative in their processes and new production methods are researched all the time. One company leading the way in this is Spinnova, which is developing ecological innovation that turns cellulose and waste streams into textile fibre simply, without dissolving or any harmful chemicals. Companies are also trying to reuse waste material, like what Pure Waste Textiles is doing. They produce fantastic products out of 100% recycled fabrics and yarns.

However, bringing consumption to a sustainable level needs that everyone’s (including individuals, companies and organizations) efforts and that the way of thinking is eco-friendly. Everybody has the chance to make a difference when it comes to our world’s sustainability.

What is Everyday Design doing?

Sustainability has been one of Everyday Design’s core values since the beginning. Majority of our products are designed to make sorting, recycling and keeping order easier. One of our most popular products is the Helsinki –recycling holder that works as a recycling point at home or in office. All recyclables (for example empty bottles, waste paper, cardboards) can be easily be collected in it.

Our products, beside being made for recycling, are also manufactured eco-friendly. All our products (except the jutebags) are made in Finland using 100 % recycled materials or partly recycled materials. All products can also be further recycled.

Everyday Design follows in its business clear and bare mentality. All products have clear purpose and the design is appropriate for the use and the style is simple. The quality has to be high to be sustainable, so we have opted to keep the manufacturing in Finland to ensure this. Everyday Design hopes for the same kind of consumer culture to exist more in the current world, instead of the throwaway culture that ruins the environment.

The important role of the consumer

A significant change that a consumer can make, is to stop and examine the everyday decisions they are making and think could some of them be changed towards more eco way. For example, could they recycle more their waste?

When aqcuiring products, consumers need to make conscious decisions to choose the sustainable options. Unfortunately, it is not enough companies are demanded ecological, local production and responsibility, if the consumers still always just go for the cheapest possible option. It is an unfortunate fact that ecological option is often more expensive. To compensate the higher cost, the customer should get high-quality and longlasting products.

An individual customer can make a difference. Customers can have an effect on companies’ actions. For example boycots have made corporate giants to change their businesses and policies. Lobbying has an impact, even if the efficacy doesn’t show immediately.

Design and the possibility to affect

Manufacturers and designers have a great responsibility when contemplating new products for the market. Designers have the power to influence what products are manufactured, what materials are used and where the products are manufactured in. Also, when one wants to make sustainable products, it’s crucial that the products’ usability, functionality, durability, multipurposeness, fixability and recyclability have been taken into account.

Often products’ simple and timeless design prolongs the product’s lifespan. Trends cannot or need not to be avoided, but very flashy and unusual choices can stand the test of time poorly. An excellent example of timeless design are Alvar Aalto’s wood products that are very simple in their design and decades later, still look modern.

Everyday Design’s tips on combining design and sustainability:

1. Before you buy, think:

• Do you need to buy the product new or could it be acquired used? When getting things second-hand, the quality stands out. If the product is still in good shape after previous use, it will most likely handle further use and keep the quality.
• Do I need the product constantly or could I maybe borrow or rent it just for a fixed period of time? This way you can consider the product’s real life span for you.
• ”Place for everything and everything in place” –mentality helps you to see, if something is missing or if there is surplus of something and could be put in recycle.


• Do you really need something or do just want something? Companies use billions for brand building and marketing and create new ”needs” for customers. Try to stop and think what you are trying to achieve by shopping and what is your real motivation? Could the same satisfaction that shopping brings to you, be achieved in other way, for example with new experiences? And then finally, when you decide to buy something, whether it is need –or want based, then enjoy!

2. When buying, favor sustainable companies and ecofriendly products

• Many companies have different labels and symbols, like Ecolabel or Finnish Key Flag –symbol stating the product’s origin or production method, but they are not 100% comprehensive. Also ”labelness” companies can be sustainable.
• Vote with your wallet and buy sustainably manufactured products
• Take into consideration not only the product material, but also production country. If the product is manufactured in farseas sountires, the shipping also creates emissions.
• Expensive doesn’t automatically mean good quality, longlasting and ecological product. It can also just be skillful marketing. Try to research the company’s and product in question manufaction and supply chain transparency. 

3. After  your own use

• When you sorte and recycle, make it as easy as possible. Esthetics also has a bearing. When the recycling bin is good looking, you can have it on display and then recycling becomes part of your everyday routines almost unnoticed.
• Don’t make too big obstacles for recycling. Small recycling bags are easier to carry than overflowing waste box mountains.
• Reward yourself for a job well done: collect the saved money from recycling (such as bottle deposits, online fleamarket sales money) and use them for example pampering yourself.  

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