Climate Change, COP and Conscientious Design

This November saw COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference 2021, take place in Glasgow. This is a forum where governments from the world over, gather to make agreements on how to truly make a difference when it comes to climate change, and where better to start than conscientious design?

It has been widely noted that the agreements in place with objectives which use 2035 as a deadline for change, action and results, aren’t looking as achievable as many had first thought, and that we perhaps need to take a moment, and have a rethink.

This year’s conference, COP26 determined 4 key areas upon which to focus;

  1. Mitigation – reducing emissions
  2. Adaptation – helping those already impacted by climate change
  3. Finance – enabling countries to deliver on their climate goals
  4. Collaboration – working together to deliver even greater action

Whilst these are all admirable pillars of the change and a strong strategy, there is a key word here not mentioned. It’s a term that underpins and enables all these pillars of action highlighted. That word is INNOVATION.

Without innovation nothing will change, which is why advances in technology, design, software, electronics, sustainability – you name it – are so critical to our future on this planet.

The materials we have become so heavily reliant upon, are simply not sustainable in this day and age, and unless we do something about it, our planet is literally going to become the vision of 2008 Pixar creation, Wall:E.

Annie Leonard, co-Executive Director of Greenpeace said, “There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw something away it must go somewhere”. And the simple fact of the matter is that many of the materials we continue to overuse, in many cases, will simply never break down.

With this in mind, let’s get back to basics; the very materials we use to create. What are we using, why are we using it, and is there a better, more sustainable way?


Back in 2019 British designer and University of Sussex graduate, Lucy Hughes, won the highly coveted James Dyson Award for her biodegradable material that provides a very real and very sustainable alternative to single use plastic.

Made from fish scales and skin, MarinaTex is created from the very waste that ends up in landfill. Sustainable, robust and highly cost effective, we have to wonder how this has not yet become a widely used material already! …or has it?

Photo: MarinaTex via Dezeen

Bio Concrete

Japanese knotweed and American signal crayfish are among some of the non-native species, costing the UK roughly £1.8 billion annually, to remove the species and proactively mitigate pest control. The waste collected from harvesting these materials still needs to go ‘away’.

Whilst this doesn’t entirely solve that problem, it does make a practical use for the waste product and helps restore local biodiversity.

Graduates of Central Saint Martins, Brigitte Kock and Irene Roca Moracia, have utilised these waste materials to create bio-concrete – a planet friendly concrete that doesn’t cost the earth.

A great concept which not only removes hazardous waste, but also repurposes them creating economic value, as well as ecological benefits of removing them.

Photo: Kock and Moracia via Dezeen

Seed Scoop

This trendy little Seed Scoop is a great example of how every last element of a product can in theory be created to be broken down, returning to the earth and adding rich nutrients back into the ground as it does so.

Made from peanut shell material and seeds is nothing short of genius; although the seeds are often discarded, they are some of the most nutrient rich part of the produce and make a great fertilizer.

An organic, circular, nutrient rich application of zero waste product packaging, bought to life.

This is the very definition of a circular cradle to grave product, which is truly giving back to the earth. Imagine the possibilities if this sort of thinking were applied more widely!

Photo: Zhixi Dai, Zixi Chen, and Hao Yao via Yanko Design

Bags of Oil

Japanese inventor, Akinori Ito, has created a machine which turns plastic bags into oil that could potentially power your car!

Ito has found that it takes approximately 1 kilogram of plastic bags to create approximately 1 litre of oil, at a crude cost of 20 cents (which is the cost of the electricity it takes to power the conversion process).

Ito has created the concept to make households become more energy independent, overall, requiring lesser demand on the planet’s resources.

Photo: UN University/YouTube via Interesting Engineering

Container Lodges

The Pad’ is a ski lodge resort cleverly created from 18 recycled shipping containers, which provide 11 hostel-style dorm rooms and 24 private rooms.

These rugged constructions are built to withstand the most challenging of weathers, but take a lot to mine materials to create, hence re-purposing these units not only gives a quirky and interesting holidaying experience, but it’s also wholly sustainable and offers a more affordable way to build.

A great alternative with a really pleasing aesthetic!

Photo: The Pad via Interesting Engineering


Sound the Gen Z/Millennial klaxon – Pyrus is an alternative to wood, created from kombucha brewing waste. Yep.

Creator Gabe Tavas has focused his learning on bio-design where he understood that wood could be broken down into cellulose and lignin. It’s the cellulose he discovered could also be found as a by-product of the kombucha brewing process.

Tavas embedded these sheets of cellulose into an algae-based gel and dried them out. Once hardened the sheets go through a mechanical press, and out comes a flat sheet of wood, which can be treated just like a natural wood, from sanding and cutting to painting and varnishing – tadaa!

Photo: Pyrus via Yanko Design

This plethora of alternative materials, have all be created or utilised to lessen the impact of the project in hand, on our planet. Whilst these are in many respects, new technologies, new processes or new materials, imagine the possibilities for the manufacturers.

If you have a product to bring to life, we would love to hear about it – drop us a line at and learn how we can help you make your vision a reality.

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We’ll see you there!