The pursuit of sustainability in design.


Sustainability In Design: this is the topic of reflection for Liqui Group, a fundamental element for the success of the brand, that ability to operate globally, while maintaining a truly artisanal, Made in Britain and the USA’ ethos and approach. In order to make products on a commercial scale, Liqui combines traditional craftsmanship with modern innovation. In manufacturing, the company uses sustainable timber and operates its workshops and studios with 100% renewable energy. Liqui’s finished designs are sustainable—reliable and durable, they are built to last. They are also aesthetically pleasing, a quality that doubtless increases a product’s longevity.

On the latest episode of the Liqui podcast ‘Because things can be different’, Liqui’s Creative Director & Owner Cameron Fry sits down with special guest design writer Roddy Clarke to discuss Sustainability In Design. Below is a summary of the main points they discussed.

Practical sustainability
At Liqui, the pursuit of sustainability in design has been a core tenet of the company since the beginning. When working with clients, Liqui emphasises ‘practical sustainability’: if it is practical (and this often equates to cost), Liqui will use a particular material. There are clients who will wince at the costs associated with sustainability. In this case, Liqui, as a commercial venture, might need to consider a less sustainable route. Some companies will choose to work with Liqui because of its sustainability credentials. For others, it is because Liqui is a creative design firm. Whatever the reason, the sustainable nature of Liqui’s products is both practical and essential.

Sustainability: the latest buzzword
Sustainability’ is the latest buzzword in business and an increasing number of companies have jumped on the bandwagon. In a world of fast design and mass consumerism, companies that make small, incremental steps towards sustainability—even if we question how altruistic their motives are—will certainly help to make a difference. If a designer can make sustainability in design attractive and relatable, then more and more consumers will think about their purchases. It will also help if companies work towards full transparency, enabling consumers to make educated choices. Transparency benefits the company, the consumer, the manufacturer, and the environment. It requires commitment, openness, and honesty, including: the location of farms and factories, the use of raw materials, labour costs, transport costs, the level of CO2 emissions, water use, and energy use.

Space for morals
Originally a consumer-based company, Liqui’s first product was the ‘Bagalight’, a paper bag light. Despite its inherent throwaway design, the product—made predominantly of paper—was environmentally-friendly and easily recycled. Now very much a contract company, Liqui’s focus is on making furniture and lighting that will last for generations. Strong and durable, its products can be repaired and restored. When creating objects and interiors, Liqui’s designs are timeless: unlike fashionable design, they will last for many years. Liqui is building a business that is long-term. Its profit margins might be smaller because it is funding that ‘new material’, and has chosen not to transfer the cost to the client. However, such an approach pays dividends, and Liqui is honoured to work with a number of businesses across the world. As a company, Liqui can pride itself on being both highly moral and ethical: there is absolutely space for morals in business.

Sustaining craft
Liqui is keen to promote and support traditional crafts, many of which are disappearing. Despite the UK’s diverse history of heritage craft skills—from blacksmithing to basketry, and weaving to woodturning—the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) reports that many such skills are in the hands of people who are unable to pass them on. The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts was the first report to assess the viability of traditional crafts—the extensive list includes those crafts that are extinct, critically endangered, and endangered. Liqui concedes that modern craft involves an element (sometimes considerable, depending on scale) of technology and innovation, yet believes craft in its truest artisanal sense, remains a viable and rewarding career choice.

A concerted effort to sustain craft should be addressed, especially in educational settings. Central government can also play its role, particularly in slowing down the influx of extremely cheap, poor quality products, and highlighting the significance of buying local. The benefits to sustainability would be of immense importance. Any pursuit of keeping costs low serves no honest or useful purpose. Instead, such a practice is at the expense of several factors, including: a decrease in wages for workers, an increase in unsafe working environments, calamitous environmental damage owing to long-distance shipping and production, a disinvestment in local jobs and training, and poorer quality standards.

Collective power
There is much power in the collective efforts of consumers. The rise in veganism and the establishment of Veganuary, with its associated social and agricultural changes, is one key example. Around the UK, we are witnessing a certain resurgence in craftsmanship, particularly in areas such as furniture-making, ceramics, textiles, food, beer, and more. Whether it is trendy to do so or a genuine commitment, consumers who make a conscious change in how they consume will support sustainable efforts. And where consumers go, companies will follow.

For more information, please see the article on Archiproducts.

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