If design is a negotiation between what was and what is, the idea of sustainability adds the future into the mix, making it an exploration of what can be. For some, sustainability means being eco-friendly; for others, it is about working with social, cultural, human and economic factors in a healthy and holistic way, in addition to the ecological context. With every choice and intervention they make, in method, material, technique and strategy, these six brands are leading the way to a better world and a more sustainable future.
1. Sar, Pune
Thinking about the life cycle of things
For Nikita Bhate, founder of Sār Studio, sustainability goes beyond simply conscious consumption and awareness of a product’s carbon footprint. “This includes the durability of the product, its repairability, the possibility of recycling or recycling its components, reducing waste and disposing of it correctly,” she explains. So when the Sār team started thinking about their first collection, all of these aspects came into play, along with an additional overriding question: given the huge number of products already on the market, was it really necessary to create more? “That’s when we started thinking about the life cycle of a product and how we as designers could redesign systems,” says Bhate. The result of this thinking was the Sār Sustainability System (SSS), which focused on custom room design with modular parts. When user needs change or wear and tear has taken its toll, individual parts can be replaced, recycled, or recycled as needed. For example, the upholstery of the Tankan chair (pictured) could be replaced after years of use.
Bhate describes the coins born out of this system as “products that people can grow with”. Each part has the possibility of being improved, whether in terms of size, functionality or appearance. Sār also uses a batch production system which allows them to make the most standard parts of a design, leaving the finish until they have an order for a certain part. Three clever details in the system stand out. First, each piece in the collection is marked with its date of manufacture, which serves as a receipt, allowing customers to replace parts by purchasing new upgradable parts from the SSS. “So instead of replacing an entire piece, you can modify your furniture inexpensively,” Bhate points out. Second, the products are flat-packed and designed for easy self-assembly. And finally, the brand focuses on using local materials and reclaimed wood. “All of this has a major effect on the price of the product, which is very relevant right now.”