For anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Blue Planet – or opened a newspaper, come to that – the fact that our world is in need of some TLC shouldn’t come as a surprise. While climate change continues to devastate and even wipe out entire species, the impact of pollution can be seen at the bottom of the deepest ocean, with traces of manmade fibres and plastics winding up in the stomachs of all sorts of marine life. In addition, we’ve seen an increase in adverse weather conditions – fires, floods and mudslides impacting communities across the globe. No part of the world or ocean remains untouched by humans; and a global issue needs a global solution.
According to Green Tourism, the UK’s sustainable tourism sector is a world leader in cutting carbon emissions, clearly demonstrating that operators and their design teams recognise the part they play in safeguarding the future. With sustainability assessment systems such as LEED and BREEAM leading the way, there are numerous green initiatives out there that deserve both praise and attention. But what does ‘sustainability’ actually mean to those on the ground, and what does ‘environmentally conscious design’ look like in practice?
‘It means taking responsibility for the health of the planet – this includes the environment and animals, as well as people. Until now, design has been able to extract material from the earth and make cities, buildings and objects, as well as to burn fossil fuel. Now we know that, on a global scale, the rate of extraction and subsequent solution is having a disastrous effect on our climate, our air quality and people’s lives. It is destructive, poisonous and cannot go on. We need to value our resources more highly and turn towards policies, strategies and investment that does not cost the earth…which is why designers have such an important role to play.’ – James Soane, Director, Project Orange
‘I prefer to refer to ‘responsibility’ rather than ‘sustainability’, which is a term mostly used in reference to the environment, which is just one of the areas it covers. For us, being responsible has meant being conscious of our impact on our surroundings, not only in the physical sense, but also in the social arena. This impact has become one of the factors we take into account during our daily operational decision making. It’s a long road and we’re doing our best to continue advancing in the right direction, through initiatives like the use of renewable energy, the protection of natural resources, thorough handling of residues and the constant participation with the local communities, but there is still a lot more to be done.’ – Miguel Purcell La Brecque, General Manager, Tierra Atacama – the first completely solar powered hotel in South America
‘Sustainability, for us, follows the ethos of ‘Give a person a fish, and they’ll eat. Teach a person to fish, and they’ll eat for life’. It conveys the message of looking to yourself, or your business, for how you can make, maintain and improve your service or offering without excessively drawing on polluting resources and reducing waste wherever possible.’ – Abigail Rose, General Manager, The Black Boy Pub and Hotel, Oxford
Environmentally conscious design in practice:
‘97.1% of all materials that go into our UK manufactured tiles are not only natural but are sourced and supplied from within the UK, including all of our own ceramic manufacturing waste’ – Darren Clanford, Creative Director, Johnson Tiles
‘Many ethical and sustainable practices are found in areas with the least resources that continue to use vernacular architecture to aid cooling (without air conditioners), collect and store rainwater or to harness the energy of the sun. In the West, we favour technological solutions such as solar panels, wind farms and thermal insulation. However, one of the biggest innovations for the next 10 years will be the electric car. Of course, we still need to push to produce green power, but the reduction in CO² as well as pollutants and noise will make a significant difference.’ – James Soane, Director, Project Orange
‘Our most important achievement in the environmental arena is having our own solar energy plant in Tierra Atacama. The use of renewable energy in the middle of the Atacama Desert is a great challenge, which today has led to the use of more than 500 solar panels, which enable us to power 100% of hotel operations through ‘green’ technology, which is also highly efficient.’ – Miguel Purcell La Brecque, General Manager, Tierra Atacama
‘From South Indian company, Malai, creating a new material from coconut water – to KIZIS Studio planting seeds of change with its thistle-based furniture – brands across the globe are continuing to push for greater sustainability.’ – Richard Baskerville, Studio Manager, Material Lab