'Mark-it' for Planet-Thinkers
by Mynah Quéva
For the Grantham Art Prize proposal my group (Emma Shore, Joanna Marczak) and I had the opportunity for a much needed update on environmental awareness. We worked together to deliver a unique idea using our graphic design knowledge to clearly communicate how heavily produce can have an impact on the planet. All three of us were interested in becoming more environmentally aware about ethically farmed produce. Focusing on branding we researched into big labels i.e. Sainsbury, Asda, Tesco, observing local vs. out of the country produce and attempted to roughly calculate the ecological footprint. As well checked into the appeal of organically branded items. Anything grown can be labeled organic, with the only requirement being that the production of the crop, animal, and what not, is farmed without the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics and growth enhancing steroids, or any other chemicals. Although organic farming does benefit the earth by reducing the level of pollution it also has its faults. For example, farms who look to capitalize on the higher price that people pay for organic products loose the values that come with organic farming, altering their farms to meet the certification requirements set by the ‘USDA Certified Organic’ label. This means that you can really just slap an organic label on any (non-chemically produced) produce and us as consumers, can splurge to make an easy environmental saving purchase. Unfortunately, saving the planet will take a bit more knowledge and effort from us consumers looking towards organic products. Also the planet will need more effort and honestly from big corporate farms.
This brings us to ‘Mark-it’. As a group we came up with three values that represented aspects of sustainable farming. These values are: lowest G.H.G’s, no harm to either people or animals, and ethical farming. Our design thinking was to produce something simple enough that the final product could be made as stickers or stamps, to clearly communicate these 3 values. We also wanted to stay away from green and brown, hand written, and raw looks that often decorate organic produce. The final decision was to design the final as trendy, bright, and simple enough that consumers could easily identify and educate themselves on more sustainable farming. We came up with 3 bold and brightly colored circles which would be either stamped or not stamped individually defining that through it’s lifecycle this product has been ethically produced, sourced, and transported. Those buying would have an easy tell and communicate to the consumer the impacts this specific produce has had on the environment. It’s a mark which you can believe in and communicates quickly and simply giving you the choice to support ethical trade and overall encouraging companies that the way they are run needs to change to meet our planet’s conscious consumers.
Bacteria Saves Consumerism
by Mynah Quéva
I attended a very thought provoking industry talk at the Design Museum in London about multi-disciplinary approach to design. I was very taken by the subject of bio-design which speaker Natsai Audrey Chieza introduced. She spoke about how you can utilize the life cycle of Streptomyces coelicolor. It’s a strain of bacteria that is found in the soil and produces an antibiotic called actinorhodim. Depending on the acidity of it’s environment it can produce blue, pink, and purple pigmented molecules. When used as dye on cloth such as silk, these bacteria produce a colorfast pigment without the use of any chemicals. By doing this you save a massive amount of water and prevent chemical run-offs from polluting the environment. This led Natsai Audrey Chieza to understand how nature could completely revolutionize how we design and build our environments in the future. The key being, to learn how to control this living organism so that you can use this dyeing method in industry and meet the human scale.
I understood during this talk that our consumerism habits didn’t have to disappear for the environment to heal. We have to alter and form our material future instead. If we can harness and control living organisms and change our industry, this “could represent a new mode of survival,” (TedTalk) ensuring a sustainable development. Another example of synthetic biology is turning Fungi into material. ‘MycoWorks’ is replacing animal leather with mushroom leather. Fungi is being developed as a very multi-purpose organism with many different uses for material replacements. Other companies like ‘Ginkgobioworks’ use bacteria to produce some of the ingredients of perfume normally harvested in the wild, and are now involved in making veggie burger taste like meat as well as producing cannabis in yeast. Constructing material through bio-engineering also has many benefits. You can actually produce materials that are more durable, multi-purposeful, and have more options than existing, un-sustainable materials. (multi-purpose functions?)
With fossil fuels polluting the planet the time for environmental awareness is now. By combining design and biology the possibility for redesigning a future where people, our needs, and the existing nature can be placed, along side one another, into an organic and sustainable network.