How to design a more environmentally friendly product and make it better?

How to design a more environmentally friendly product and make it better?

Oceana - Plant Pot made from recycled ocean plastics

This was a question which originally appeared and I answered on Quora : What innovative methods can I use to redesign my product? I thought it was an important question and I was fairly impressed with my answer!;-) I thought I’d keep it here for prosperity on my blog. You may be interested in finding out more.

The original answer can be found here: What innovative methods can I use to redesign my product? Tyrone Probert, Director at Www.ecotribo.com (2017-present) Answered May 24, 2019

There are many ways to improve a product’s performance. Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement and businesses need to constantly be innovating. The two most popular ways to make product improvements are to add new product features or improve existing ones. You could create a new product incorporating technology such as IoT or Ai. But I thought I would discuss another interesting and in my opinion, a more relevant idea. If you are looking for an innovative approach to redesign your product/business I would suggest looking at ways that you can make it more sustainable.

The way we design and make things is changing. We need to design products and systems that can efficiently meet our needs within planetary boundaries. The current system is no longer working for businesses, people or the environment. Customers are actively looking for eco-friendly alternatives so I would explore how your business could be more sustainable from product design to packaging and marketing.

Most products are currently designed as if there are limitless resources – take-make-waste. We call this a linear economy. We take resources from the ground to make products, which we use, and, when we no longer want them we throw them away. A new system of design and manufacture is required that is circular and sustainable. Designers and business owners need to consider how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards. Only then can we create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet and ensure a sustainable business.

So where to start …

Design out waste: 
Waste and pollution infiltrate every aspect of most businesses currently. These are often design decisions that happen at the product development stage and where 80% of environmental impacts happen. Consider how your product is assembled and disassembled and ensure it can be recycled easily. Can parts be returned and refreshed rather than the whole item being discarded? Can you use new materials and technology to reduce or eliminate waste and pollution?

Keep products and materials in use: 
Have you considered how your product could be repaired and reused in future? Could this thinking be a part of the redesign? Can you redesign your product so it can be repaired easily, reused and easily recycled? What materials are you using? Can they be from recycled or biomaterials? Can you create a system where you collect the product from customers at the end of its life for it to be repurposed and made into another? About 80 million tonnes of ‘waste’ in total are generated in the U.K. alone each year.[5. Are there ways you can reuse your waste streams and create new product ranges or leverage the material in other ways? Have you considered new business models such as leasing so you can ensure the quality and recyclability of your product and supply chain?

Regenerate natural systems:
Can your product design ensure it does good and enhances natural systems? Consider the materials, chemicals, factories and transport it uses to get made and get to market. Use wind and solar to power your workshops and factories as this can be a huge benefit for the planet (and your marketing).

So optimise every element of your product to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and be a leader in the new circular economy. Create a business that you and your children can be proud of. A business that will be around for the next generation and the generation after that. Create products that solve a need without harming our planet and you will be successful my friend.

Above is a picture of my latest product prototype called ‘Oceana’ which is made from recycled Ocean plastics. A simple plant pot but made locally from ocean waste. I believe even the simplest products can be improved by simply replacing the materials and ensuring they are eco-friendly. I intend that the product will be made locally too to ensure that I reduce the products carbon footprint further.

Plastic-free wetsuit hangers. Made from recycled wetsuits and sustainable FSC wood

Wetsuit hanger made from recycled wetsuits

I’ve always been looking for a wetsuit hanger that can hold all my surf gear in one place. Also something with a mission to help our environment and find solutions to ocean waste. Ecotribo has been my side project for the last few years and it’s gathering steam- Designing products that ‘Clean our seas and plant positivity’. I’m always looking for ways to tackle and utilise waste streams in the production of my art, design, and recycled products. So far I have been making plant pots from ocean plastics and collaborating with Rideguard to make mudguards from recycled industrial plastics. And now I have launched a wetsuit hanger made from recycled wetsuits and FSC wood and manufactured right here in Bristol.

Comfortably dries a full length mens wetsuit, gloves & booties

Easily hangs from just about anywhere

Proudly made locally in Bristol, United Kingdom

Our oceans demand we do better.
In the United Kingdom alone, around 380 tonnes of old wetsuits end up in landfill every year according to research done by the University of Exeter. Countless more pile up in our sheds, garages and clubhouses. As surfers and ocean lovers, we like to think of ourselves as a pretty eco-friendly bunch. We love the natural world that we play in and ensure we recycle everything we can.

But surfboards and wetsuits are unfortunately responsible for some pretty damaging pollution. PU surfboards are a notoriously harmful mix of chemicals, that damage the environment in the manufacturing process and are near on impossible to recycle. 


Some positive outcomes for our planet.


Fortunately​,​ due to awareness around the problem, we are beginning to see some fantastic new surfboard manufacturing processes. The​re are​ new product​s that​ utilise​ converted locally abundant sugarcane biomass that is polymerized and expanded into the rigid foam​ with links to biotechnologies based in the Netherlands​.​ Whilst Entropyresins make a bio-based surf resin, which is what I use in my #handsupforthesea coat hanger product.


​We​tsuits have similar challenges​,​ as the material​s​ ​are generally made from a variety of ​petroleum-based ​composites.​ Patagonia has made some big strides in finding eco-friendly alternatives to petroleum-based neoprene. They have a great product made with sustainable natural rubbers called Yulex. It’s still early days in the industry so in the meantime most of our wetsuits are not recycled and end up in a landfill.

Wetsuits are currently made from a number of different composite materials

Wetsuit material ​is ​complex​.​ A single suit can use up to 15 different types of neoprene and/or rubber composites​. When these materials are combined in these ways it makes it hard to separate the materials at the end of their lives. This makes​ wetsuit recycling nearly impossible​ at this point​.​ 

Be the change you want to see

I have been fascinated by sustainability and material design and how it can bring about positive change for several years. With a variety of my design and art projects, I have always tried to utilise waste materials and create a circular economy. I admit it’s not perfect but am on a journey, taking steps towards a very idealistic goal, so please bear with me!

By making and trying new things I hope to raise awareness and find solutions. I hope that by utilising this recycled/upcycled wetsuit material I can make a product that is useful and brings positive outcomes for our environment. The wetsuit hangers straps are made from wetsuits I get from surfer friends and local surf clubs. (Please get in touch if you have any and I would be happy to take them off your hands and ensure they don’t ​end up in land-fill). The hanger body is made from a sustainable FSC wood which is CNC’d locally here in Bristol by a KWMC Factory, a community based digital fabrication factory. The wetsuit straps are then sewn by a local seamstress with an industrial sewing machine providing local people with work.

 
I am so grateful for the positive messages and reviews of the product so far. I hope that by bringing awareness to this issue I can be a small cog in the machine that brings about lasting positive change.​ Please subscribe and join me on the journey.

Wetsuit hanger made from recycled wetsuits & FSC wood

Wetsuit hanger made from recycled wetsuits

A new range of ecofriendly wetsuit hangers made from recycled/upcycled wetsuits made in Bristol for surfers, Kitesurfer’s, SUP surfers, canoeists and divers.

Coldwater surfing takes a special love & commitment. I’m putting the same love and commitment into my eco-friendly wetsuit hangers made from recycled wetsuits and FSC wood. Super strong and robust to hold a heavy full-length wet wetsuit, booties and gloves ( it’s been tested to 8kg).


Made from eco materials

Wetsuit hanger made from recycled wetsuits & FSC wood

Hang from anywhere

Wetsuit hanger can be hung from just about anywhere


Wetsuit Hanger

Great for ensuring your wetsuit dries so you ready for the next session


It can hang off just about anything with the multipurpose strap. Hang from your van, a tree, or just a rail. The wetsuit hanger went through a rigorous research and development phase as prototyping took place on a 4000-mile surf trip around Europe in the summer of 2020. The wood is from FSC sustainable forests and sealed with an eco microporous wax for long life.

All packaging is plastic-free. I use recycled cardboard embossed with my Ecotribo stamp for a luxury and waste-free feel. I also use bio-based sellotape as Ecotribo continues to try to be a company that will #donoharm. I’m super excited to be able to bring another product to market that can actually help clean up our coasts and be a positive contribution to our environmental challenges. This would make a great gift for watersports enthusiasts who care for our planet and help raise awareness around these issues.

This is another product that aims to do good. My ‘ocean tide’ planters which utilise and are made from ocean plastics and an oyster-shell bio-composite and have been really popular. I have been selling these online as well as at the 3D Print Shop in Bristol for a few years. You can check them out in the etsy shop.

I am determined to continue my quest to find solutions to ocean plastic pollution and super grateful for all the support I have been receiving over the years on Instagram and other places.


Finding solutions and addressing the currently huge environmental issue of what to do with wetsuits at their end of their functional life

Recycled ocean plastics to make Bicycle mudguards – The story so far…

OceanX Mudguards made from recycled fishing Nets

Ecotribo is excited about our OceanX recycled ocean plastics project with Rideguard. We will be making the worlds first bicycle mudguards made from recycled fishing nets. We all know how big a problem ocean plastic waste is so we decided to do something about it.

Some of you may be interested in the back story to how the OceanX project came about and how we are turning the ocean waste problem into sustainable products.

It’s been an epic story to make a positive outcome for the environment and bring the OceanX project to life. For many years I have been working with recycled, ocean plastics and biomaterial waste streams. A design project I did on the side of my usual marketing job. As a surfer, the ocean, nature and outdoor pursuits had always been my passion and I wanted, more than anything, to bring these things into my daily life.

I met Ben Gaby, another designer and environmentalist, at a local advertising agency who specialised in bikes. We were two freelancer designers wanting to ride bikes, boards and do good. We bonded over discussions about design, the environment, his work with Surfers Against Sewerage, trash-free trails, bikes, boards and the outdoors. We became friends instantly.

Ben and I had been in conversation for a while around my material design experiments and exploration. A side project I had going on exploring alternatives to plastics as well as recycled plastic waste streams. During my research, I had come across a recycled Cornish fishing net material and created a few prototypes. I was keen to demonstrate how we could make things from waste and turn problems into products.

Ben, being equally as passionate about the environment, uses recycled industrial plastic within Rideguards current range. He was interested to see if recycled fishing net material would be suitable for his mudguards and we could help clean our oceans together. I jumped at the opportunity and we started working together.


Recycled Fishing
Net Surf Fin

Recycled Fishing Net
Bicycle Mudguards

Recycled Fishing Net Prototype in action


Rideguard and Ecotribo became partners on what we ended up calling – project OceanX. Working with coastal communities on the collection and processing of end of life fishing nets. We are giving commercial value to this precious resource and preventing it from being discarded. By finding new avenues for this material we are protecting our oceans and marine ecosystems. Both of our missions are to make quality products whilst creating a sustainable business that is good for people and planet.

We got to work. I created a 3D printed prototype mudguard from the material to see if it would be suitable for the rigours of mountain biking. The tests were a great success and we have been working on finding suppliers of the material, liaising with them and ensuring manufacturers are happy to do this at scale. We worked out we needed a lot of money to make this happen so created a Kickstarter campaign in the hope that we could get some financial help from the community.

Within a few weeks, we had raised over £4,124! We had loads of interest from the community of riders, bike press, environmental groups and Pro riders.


Recycled Ocean Plastics – The Rideguard + Ecotribo OceanX Kickstarter Video.


But it was not enough. At over £4k we had not hit the Kickstarter target and we got nothing. We had to start again. It was a kick in the teeth that after so much interest we still did not get fully funded. After a week or so we dusted ourselves off and got back on the bike so to speak. We were not going to stop. We had loads of support and felt the community of riders behind us. We were going to have to do this on our own…

We looked at the budget again and by not going with Kickstarter realised we could save nearly half the money. (Kickstarters fees are 10% and the international postage has to also be included in the campaign, making things very expensive.) We had run a great campaign and had got lots of interest we could maximise. So without these extra expenses, we decided to fund it all ourselves.

Things have grown from strength to strength and I continue to be a part of the Rideguard team. We have collected 1 ton of fishing nets now and have a couple of pro riders on board who we have made custom designs for and want to help us promote the project. (They will be announced soon) The material has been processed and cleaned. The material has been made into sheets ready for the final process of printing the designs on.

We have been busy creating various video assets, social stories and designs for the range so keep an eye out on the Instagram profile. The launch is a lot of work as we do this amongst a day job.


‘Deity’ Rideguard

Deity Illustration


As things stand we have cleaned 1 ton of material from our oceans, processed it and formed our sheet material ready to be printed. We are so close and things are looking good…

Bam! We have hit another bump in the road! Due to COVID -19, the material is sat in a warehouse and not moving as the factory has closed indefinitely… We are looking at other options and have found printers who can finish the job but it means new relationships, cutter guides and machinery…

We have been through so much to make this happen and it will. They say: ‘When victory is closest things get hard’. They also say… ‘it all works out in the end. If it’s not working out… it’s not the end.’

We have had to find deep reserves, meditate, listen to a lot of wisdom and read a lot of bumper stickers to get through. They have all helped. As have good friends, family and the community of riders and ocean lovers who have supported us. For you, for the oceans, the bike trails, the natural spaces we all love, we will keep going… For now, we need to pause and reflect. We need to think of all the good things that have happened and know the tide will turn. Stay tuned for new developments as we continue to find sustainable solutions to ocean waste.

If you are interested in finding out how the story ends, getting exclusive insider product testing information, please signup to the OceanX newsletter. We will be able to offer discounts, insights into our R&D and research, invitations to events and workshops. Signup, and be one of the first to know when we get the OceanX mudguard off the ground.

OceanX Logo

OceanX Bicycle Mudguards made from recycled Ocean Plastics now on Kickstarter

Rideguard Mudguards

Since the launch of Ecotribo we have been on a mission to make a sustainable design business and have been trying to develop strategies of pollution prevention, eco product development. I have been super busy and working with some exciting brands with this objective in mind. 

This year I have been doing a R&D project with a large European food brand. I can’t currently share the project details but now I can finally share the other project I have been super excited about! The Rideguard OceanX Kickstarter project.

Please pledge to the campaign on Kickstarter

A collaboration with Bristol bike company, Rideguard

I am collaborating with Rideguard who are a wonderful local Bristol Business who have been making mudguards for over 4 years. Rideguard have been using post industrial waste plastics for their current range but Ecotribo are now helping them go even further. I have been working with Ben Gaby at Rideguard to develop a new range made form Ocean Plastics.  We’re proud to introduce the OceanX range of bike mudguards/fenders, made from 100% recycled fishing nets which has been launched on Kickstarter. Please check out the project and make a pledge if you can. 

The OceanX range of designs

By choosing this material we will be preventing nets from being discarded in our oceans, where they cause large-scale damage to marine ecosystems and animals, before breaking down into micro-plastics and ending up in the food chain and the fish we eat. The recycled fishing net material reduces C02 emissions by up to 95% compared to virgin plastics. The material is completely recycled and recyclable in kerbside council pickups.

This is more than just a range of mudguards, it’s about how the cycling industry can be the change that we want to see. 

With this campaign alone we aim to take 1 ton of Ocean waste out of the seas and turn it into rad bike gear. This is just the start of our journey as we hope to create a range of cycling gear made from recycled ocean plastic waste. Please support us and visit, make a pledge and share!

The OceanX Mudguard Range. Designed to universally fit Mountain Bikes, Disk Equipped Gravel, Road, CX, and Hybrid Bikes. 

•  Vision Front Gravel Mudguard. Fits Disc Brake Equipped Gravel, Cross, Road, and Hybrid Bikes. 

•  Gaiter Rear Gravel Mudguard. Neatly clips onto all standard saddle rails. 

•  PF1 Front Mountain Bike Mudguard. Fits all modern MTBs with suspension forks. 

•  PF2 Rear Mountain Bike Mudguard. Neatly clips onto all standard saddle rails.

Please follow the OceanX campaign on Kickstarter today and share with your friends

Introducing Ecotribo ‘Fire Cluster’ Pendant Lamps

Ecotribo PendantLamp 2 LR

Designing with carefully selected up-cycled or recycled materials is at the forefront of my design ethos. The Ecotribo ‘Fire Cluster’ pendant lamps demonstrate the individual grain qualities of Oakwood and the unique qualities created by the ancient burnt wood technique of Shou-sugi-ban (Yakisugi 焼き杉) .

 

 

I’ve always been inspired by artists who dance on the cusp of creation and destruction. That wonderful place between life and death; ying and yang, it’s an edgy space I love to play in. The craft of making something beautiful & classic out of the world’s finest materials and then leaving mother nature to make her mark. Out of destruction a new beginning. I started burning my artworks many years ago because I loved this edgy aspect but have recently discovered it’s an ancient technique called Shou-sugi-ban Yakisugi 焼き杉. a Japanese technique that preserves wood by charring it with fire. The process involves charring the wood, cooling it, cleaning it, and finishing it with a natural oil. I love the wonderful unique colours and shapes that are created, reminiscent of the first lamps used somewhere in an ancient cave. Its final shape reminds me of some ancient tribal cave yet works beautifully in a modern home.

 

Production of acorns starts at the age of 20 to 50 years. Oaks produce more than 2000 acorns every year, but only one in 10 000 acorns will manage to develop into an oak tree. So it’s important we upcycle the wood if we can and make something beautiful to be enjoyed for years to come.

 

These lamps are hand crafted out of upcycled Oak beams on a wood lathe in Bristol, United Kingdom. Then finished, using a flame torch. Acclaimed for its exceedingly strong and durable qualities, Oak is a traditional hardwood generally associated with geometric forms. The ‘Fire Cluster’ lamp challenges this perception by demonstrating a unique combination of modern day technology, combined with this ancient technique, providing something completely unique and organic. The final pieces have then been oiled, polished, and then fitted with vintage brass fittings and dimmable LEDs. We don’t use plastic fittings, only the finest brass we can find, so it will last for generations.

 


For more information about the Ecotribo ‘Fire Cluster’ pendant lamps range and for any bespoke inquiries please contact info@ecotribo.com

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