Design for the oceans: Projects that harvest success by caring for the environment through design
21 Oct 2021 /

Design for the oceans: Projects that harvest success by caring for the environment through design

Using design as a disruptive tool to transform industrial products and processes into other much more sustainable ones, more environmentally friendly and sufficiently profitable to survive in the market. That is what these four successful projects have in common. They have found in design and creativity the way to contribute to improving people’s quality of life and caring for the environment without relinquishing a profitable business that creates jobs. Companies with a successful track record going back several decades that have found a new way of doing things or new projects that have arisen as a result of a concern for the care of the environment and sustainability.

The furniture companies Vondom and Andreu World, the firm Closca and the project Gravity Wave are clear examples of this entrepreneurial capacity to make a positive impact on society and on the environment, via design.

Andreu world and the circular economy 

From a small cabinetmaking workshop that opened its doors more than 65 years ago to the furniture company with worldwide presence that is Andreu World today, the company has never ceased to work with wood as a raw material: the most sustainable material is also its added value.

Andreu World has implemented a whole strategy based on the precepts of the circular economy, held up by twelve pillars and with the aim of multiplying the sustainability of its products and services. The first pillar corresponds to product design, opting for timeless designs that manage to be both classic and contemporary. What could be more sustainable than making products that last over time and are handed down from generation to generation? Furthermore, they control the whole value chain to safeguard the quality of the raw material, the reforestation of the trees felled and the sustainable origin of the wood used.

In recent years, the company has incorporated another type of material, propylene, which is 100% sustainable and 100% recyclable, and the fabric ‘circular one’ which is manufactured with plastic from PET bottles and textile waste, far more resistant and durable. In its global strategy, Andreu World aims for all of its processes to form part of the circular economy by 2030.

Sustainable and recyclable materials, raw material recovered from waste, support for design, youth employment and the conservation of traditional cabinetmaking skills, while controlling processes to reduce their impact, these are the defining elements of the commitment by Andreu World to contribute to a more environmentally friendly economy.

Gravity wave: transforming waste from the sea

The Gravity Wave project was founded in 2019 but did not find the path to success until a year later when they turned to design as a key part of the end product and the story they wanted these products to tell. The idea of the project is to recover plastic waste from the sea thanks to cooperation with traditional fishermen and to use it as a raw material to create functional, attractive objects and which include that added value.

They are currently manufacturing everything from indoor and urban furniture to pallets and other original objects based on design to increase the target public. And all at a local level: recovering plastic in the Mediterranean and processing it in the Valencian Community.

The social contribution of Closca

Inspiring social change. That was the premise on which Closca was built: a firm producing products for daily life that use design and technology to change things, to change the way in which people interact with the world, to make that interaction much more sustainable.

The firm has used branding to make its clients true ambassadors of the brand, converting its products into emblems of the social and environmental awareness of those who use them. In fact, the company is managed by milestones, not by the products it wants to create. The first milestone was mobility, and this led to its mythical Closca helmet: an icon that identifies people who “want to change society”.

The consumption of single-use plastics is another of the milestones regarding which this Valencian company has set out to intervene by creating a reusable water bottle, together with an app that geolocates public fountains in the city where the bottles can be refilled. Not only is the product sustainable, but its use encourages social transformation.

The Vondom ‘revolution’ 

The firm Vondom was founded a decade ago from a company that had worked with plastic for over 40 years. Inspired by a young and far more environmentally aware consumer, the company, focused on the manufacture of outdoor furniture, took a U-turn in the way it worked and began to research and implement designs that could be manufactured with recycled plastic.

Led by the designer Eugeni Quilet, Vondom has created a line of products manufactured from plastics recovered from the Mediterranean Sea. Their commitment has gone beyond this specific collection and they have decided to begin manufacturing previous designs from recycled plastic, too. But in their ‘revolution’ they have gone even further. They have intervened in the packaging to ensure that it is of plant origin, they have implemented an overall plan in their facilities to reduce the consumption of energy and other resources and they have signed agreements with local fishermen to use their fishing nets as a raw material to manufacture furniture, also seeking economic sustainability for traditional trades.

Oceans round table

Valuing design, the circular economy, industrial symbiosis and economic profitability based on support for sustainability were the focus of the round table in which these four Valencian companies took part, moderated by the manager of the Professional Association of Designers of the Valencian Community (ADCV), María Navarro. The round table formed part of the programme of activities of the initiative Run For The Oceans organised by Valencia World Design Capital.

A talk which tackled issues such as how society can be transformed through product design or the impact of design in reducing the carbon footprint of companies, products and even consumers.  And the fact is that several studies assure that involving design from the beginning of the process makes it possible to control up to 80% of the environmental impact of a product as well as facilitating decision making and changes of direction, preventing errors that lead to a waste of resources.