By Dr Michelina Andreucci
SIGNS that our planet is in trouble are plain for all to see.
But how we create and build on eco-awareness without sacrificing our home comforts and style is what is pre-occupying most designers from architecture construction, décor and design, landscaping, food and food production as well as lighting and luxury brands today.
Eco-design is not just about using mud and bales (building bricks made from straw and mud), in construction.
Eco design is about respecting the earth on which a building is standing and harvesting the elements sustainably.
Housing has been stripped down to its most basic form, offering simple, but striking pre-fabricated homes while also utilising recyclable wall panels and energy efficient construction.
By utilising natural light, few electrical lights are required with well designed structures with built-in solar powered panels.
It is also possible to design buildings with rainwater catchment systems to make the most of natural rain.
Socio-economic factors and informed choices are also possible by utilising high performance materials such as aluminium and sustainable techniques.
The best ecological strategy is to make high quality products that can be used for several generations.
Today, for instance, instead of wood, it is possible to make high quality furniture using polycarbonate; the shift is away from bio plastic or recycled plastic which comes from edible products. Everyone agrees that while famine looms in many parts of the world, it is a crime against humanity to use edible food to make furniture – or to use the fuel from it to run machinery!
But the speed of evolution and the de-materialisation of the planet’s resources in our society rule all our productions.
The computer, for instance, which was once the size of a fairly large room, is now credit card size.
The green movement is not just about recycling but also reducing our waste by choosing investment buys for your homes over throw away items, as well as re-using household items. Glass is particularly versatile and makes good re-usable items. They can be used for storing and jam-making, among many other uses.
Various new ranges of eco-friendly cleaning products are being promoted, which promise to be as effective as their counter-parts, they are packaged in recycled bottles.
Organic foods are healthier and are becoming more popular. They are grown without the use of conventional pesticides and fertilisers, so as not to pollute the soils in which they are grown – now being strictly regulated in many countries.
Larger chain stores are catching on to the demand for organically produced products, by introducing more organic and/or free range products.
This concept has been practised locally by a small supermarket which operates in the Avenues of Harare.
Wines are also being grown and produced organically.
Cotton for the manufacture of fabrics is also being farmed organically, and dyed with environmentally sensitive dyes. Linen fabric is particularly apposite as it requires few pesticides to grow and creates little wastage when used.
Although conventional wares are being manufactured to be more eco-friendly and for lower fuel consumption, ‘electric’, ‘hydrogen’ and ‘hybrid’ are all terms familiar to motoring enthusiasts. Hybrid cars were originally introduced in 1997, with a new range launched in 2010, which has solar cells on the roof to power the air conditioner.
So far, however, hydrogen seems to be the most promising sustainable clean energy source – although more complex as an energy source.
In a country where nature is a leading tourist attraction, hotels and safari companies are keen to advertise their eco-friendly credentials and responsible tourism with their new approaches to community-based projects, conservation and business ethics.
“Even the luxury industry, which is synonymous with beauty and excellence, must strive to be exemplary in the preservation of the environment” – President of Louis Vuitton.
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field.
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