Printed on green paper made from algae, this book documents the latest ECAL students’ sustainable projects

A new book titled Aesthetics of Sustainability showcases the possibilities of using renewable materials in product design while acting as a beautifully designed platform for ECAL master’s graduates. Published by Slanted, edited by Thilo Alex Brunner and designed by Federico Barbon, the new publication explores how a new generation of designers are using sustainable materials to reflect and experiment with production services. The book is a product of years of research compounded into one volume, and to top it all off, it looks into exactly what the title suggests: the aesthetics of sustainability.

Federico Barbon tells us more about the collaborative project. On its innovative material choices which uses green paper made from algae, he says, “we got interested in the Italian brand Favini that produces a range of sustainable paper.” Already a supplier to ECAL’s master’s students, Favini felt like the obvious choice for the book’s paper stock. The designers tested a range of samples including papers made from kiwi peel and experimented with printing on these more challenging papers too, calling on the services of Humme, a lithography studio based in Leipzig who helped the group properly prepare the images for the print run. “The surface of these papers reveal the materials they are made of,” adds Federico, “that’s for sure the beauty of this material but also what makes it challenging to work with.”

Next, he tells us about three projects to look out for in the book. The first, by Fritz Jakob Gräber works with the idea of the Isofloc slurry, a composition of shredded newspaper uses to insulate material and reduce the energy consumption of buildings. Fritz thought to add a small percentage of water and soluble PVA glue to newspaper, making a kind of slushy, similar to the consistency of paper mâché. The slushy can then be shaped into different forms in the same way egg trays are produced. Federico adds, “the final proposal is a simple object with a clear story: a recyclable paper bin made out of recycled newspaper manufactured to recycle paper.” With paper making up the majority of this design principle, it’s a seemingly simple yet effective project.

Another student Tuo Lei, finds an alternative way of creating rubber granules used to absorb shock on the outside of shoes. Using shredded outsoles of old shoes, they find another way to create the material that was previously mixed with a highly toxic polyurethane-based binder. Creating this product with the circular economy in mind, Tuo finds a valuable new application for this pad material in the footwear sector and interestingly, recently thought of using this new material for slippers.

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