Home / Spotlight / Sustainable Innovation
Anurag Sarda’s ‘Leaf’ is a low-maintenance, self-generating water source that uses solar power to produce 20 litres of drinkable water a day

Sustainable Innovation

Indian designers are leading the charge and creating sustainable products that enhance green living.

Interiors are decked with materials, products and systems from a network of raw materials that stretch around the globe. Occupants of those interiors use energy and other resources in ways that are driven, at least in part, by the design of the space itself.

Sustainable design is a way of thinking that considers the impact of these issues on the environment. Sustainable product design is one such powerful tool for change. This change can be brought forth by examining the entire lifecycle of a product right from the conceptual design to its end of life. The intention of sustainable design is to eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design.

Through the process of exploring and experimenting with bamboo, Sandeep  Sangaru developed Truss-Me, a handcrafted, sustainable range of furniture
Through the process of exploring and experimenting with bamboo, Sandeep
Sangaru developed Truss-Me, a handcrafted, sustainable range of furniture

The principles of sustainable design are low-impact materials which are non-toxic, sustainably produced or recycled materials which require little energy to process. It also entails energy efficient, durable design by reducing consumption and waste of resources, design for reuse and recycling, renewability. Materials should ideally come from nearby (local or bioregional), sustainably managed renewable sources that can be composted when their usefulness has been exhausted.

Realising the importance of sustainability, designers in India are taking steps to promote green products through their innovative creations. The winner of the Time to Care Sustainable Award, Anurag Sarda’s ‘Leaf’ is a low-maintenance, self-generating water source that uses solar power to produce 20 litres of drinkable water a day. Leaf is inspired from its natural namesake that produces dew drops on it. Water is artificially generated on it through condensation. The electricity generated through solar energy, helps in cooling the metallic surface on the top of the unit and its temperature is monitored and varied with the help of an electronic circuit. Due to the change in temperature, due drops are generated on its surface and gets collected through the slope surface into an earthen pot. The water slowly trickles through a layer of sand, and what you get is a low-maintenance water generating unit!

Bamboo Furniture by  Rebecca Ruebens
Bamboo Furniture by Rebecca Ruebens

Materials play a major role when it comes to producing sustainable products. Bamboo is one such material which is the fastest growing plant material known to man (3-5 years). We need to learn to use it in new and improved ways to supplement our vast needs for materials across many areas of application. This is where product designers Sandeep Sangaru and Rebecca Ruebens have played a major role in crafting bamboo into myriad applications.

Sandeep Sangaru has achieved many milestones in making a distinct mark for himself in the furniture industry. Through the process of exploring and experimenting with bamboo he went on to develop a range of furniture. His technique uses solid pole bamboo and split bamboo in a typical way and these laminated modules act like a truss, a very light load bearing structure. He developed a range of functional products and furniture using this principle of construction. Truss-Me is handcrafted, sustainable and the winner of the Red Dot Design Award – Best of the Best 2009.

The Mitti Cool Refrigerator
The Mitti Cool Refrigerator

Rebecca Ruebens believes that renewable materials crafted into contemporary designs are the route into holistically sustainable products. Her firm Rhizome strives to design products and systems that are socially, culturally, ecologically and economically interlinked and yet independent; that are sustainable both as elements, and as part of a larger system. Rhizome develops various products related to lifestyle, furniture and fashion. Rebecca has also gone a step further and completed a new book focusing on the links between design, craft and sustainability.

Some materials are overtaken by better variants and the rest are lost in the sands of time, but clay pre-dates recorded history and has been used by indigenous peoples for millennia, all across the globe. Clay is one of the oldest, healthiest and most sustainable building materials on earth. Mr. Manshuk Lal Prajapati, a local from Gujarat adds simple scientific methods to create unique clay products under the brand name ‘Mitticool’ which are now famous across the globe.

One of his most exceptional products is a ‘Mitti Cool Refrigerator’  – this does not require any electricity or batteries. It works on the basic principle of evaporation – here water from the upper chambers drips down the sides and evaporates, taking with it the heat from the inside, leaving the chambers cool. The upper chamber is used to store water and a clay lid covers the top of the refrigerator. A small faucet is also provided at the lower end of the chamber to draw water for drinking. Cool and affordable, this clay refrigerator is a very good option to keep food, vegetables and even milk naturally fresh for days.

Arjun Rathi’s  recycled Ambassador Lamp
Arjun Rathi’s recycled Ambassador Lamp

By his simple scientific methods he has also created a conventional ‘Non Stick Tawa’ which is black in colour as it acts as a good heat absorber and is ideal for cooking.  His clay ‘cooker’ has been made from special clay through which one can make tasty food which is also healthy and hygienic.

We have all read our chapters on the 3 R’s: recycle, reuse and reduce. Green enthusiasts are always talking about recycling of resources and the effect it has on our ecosystem, similarly resellers like Olx or Quickr the ‘sab kuch bikta hai’ guys who encourage you to buy and sell old stuff indulge in an activity which is akin to recycling. But when it comes to recycling scrap you might have to think twice; childhood memories of making novel items out of scrap with your grandpa may ring a bell butin the later part of your life thebest place for it tends to be the junkyard itself.

But then there are exceptions and Arjun Rathi is one such exception. An architect and product designer by profession Rathi is a genius when it comes to making novelties out of scrap. One of his products, a desk lamp has been designed using an old Ambassador car headlight and recycled metal. The lamp is flexible at all three joints with a rotating base, allowing complete mobility and flexibility in usage. He also has a similar desk lamp made with the headlight of a Royal Enfield motorcycle. His other creations include a table consisting of a vintage Kelvinator refrigerator door, its condenser coils and metal procured from various scrap markets, champagne bottle shelves made from MDF and supported by champagne bottles with a string of fairy lights that pass through them to illuminate the shelving system, and much more.

A few more exceptions include Nishi Chauhan, The Retyrement Plan, Workshop Q, Apartment Therapy and Alaya Design Studio.

Nishi Chauhan’s Animal Farm collection is centered on  the twin themes of craft revival and the repurposing of used objects
Nishi Chauhan’s Animal Farm collection is centered on
the twin themes of craft revival and the repurposing of used objects

Nishi Chauhan’s Animal Farm collection is a continuing series of explorations centered on the twin themes of craft revival and the repurposing of used objects. Nishi uses household glass bottles be it a beer bottle or a sauce or a pickle bottle to create upcycled bottled lamps which visualises animal forms featuring the wood and lac turnery craft.

Anu Tandon Vieira of The Retyrement Plan recycles industrial waste like automobile tyres, plastic wrappers, glass bottles, etc. to create colourful, unique and well detailed products. The Retyrement Plan’s collection includes various furniture items like pouffes, all weather ottomans, occasional chairs and tables made from well-travelled wheels, salvaged fabrics and reclaimed wood and bamboo. The tyres are washed, sanitised and are then ready to be worked on. The ropes made of recycled tailoring waste or plastic wrapper waste are carefully coordinated to be woven in weaves that are durable and will come together in a cohesive manner. Combining crochet skills to upcycle saree scrap into home furnishings, using printing waste to make lamps, and converting political flex hoardings into bags and wallets are some of her other projects.

An upcycled pouf by The Retyrement Plan
An upcycled pouf by The Retyrement Plan

WorkshopQ is a quirky and innovative eco-product manufacturing company driven by the passion of two like-minded entrepreneurs. While making their products, Madhvi and Radhika use anything and everything they can lay their hands upon. Acrylic, wood, aluminium, plastic, rubber, jute, fabric, faux leatherette, tyre tubes, vinyl records, CDs, cork, wood fibre, industrial felt, cables and wires, etc. can be found in abundance in their workshop, but all scrap of course. WorkshopQ converts these waste materials or useless things into stunning lifestyle home accessories of better quality and of a higher environmental value

WorkshopQ goes a step further and strives to reduce the impact of its own business by using scrap paper for any documentation, keeping packaging to a minimum and using recycled or recyclable material wherever possible. The brand stands as an example that being eco-friendly can also mean lots of fun and all it requires is for you to do is just look at things differently.

The upcycled accessories by WorkshopQ
The upcycled accessories by WorkshopQ

Deepali Sakhare of ‘Apartment Therapy’ retails home decor products and customised furniture made using home grown eco-concepts, re-cycling waste and scrap and experimenting with the same.  Here, old newspapers and magazines get transformed into multi-purpose baskets. String lamps are made using a bunch of different strings and glue; used wine bottles headed for the trash get transformed into charming vases with the help of jute string or scraps of wool with much more to offer.

Alaya Design Studio is a design-led social enterprise which produces a series of eco-friendly products which are both timeless and nostalgic. The founders Joshua and Richa Ghansiyal chose to put emphasis on sustainability and renewability and this is visible from the choice of raw materials as well as the kind of processes used in transforming them for a particular product. Alaya Design Studio produces a range of handcrafted furniture; lighting and home accessories made from 100% natural and renewable materials such as bamboo, natural fibres, non-endangered wood and assorted recycled materials. Based in the Himalayas, they also work with locally available traditional craft skills such as handcrafted copper, Tibetan style wood carving, Kumaoni aipan painting, etc.

Anurag Sarda

Sandeep Sangaru

Rebecca Ruebens

Manshuk Lal Prajapati

Arjun Rathi

Nishi Chauhan

Anu Tandon Vieira


Deepali Sakhare

Alaya Design Studio


Check Also

The Harbinger of Fresh Design

Maison et Objet Paris announces Franklin Azzi as the designer of the year, signaling an …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.