SUSTAINABILITY THAT DOESN'T CRUNCH: Getting to Green

By Mitria Di Giacomo

 

Furniture designer Tucker Robbins hosted FGI’s Frontliners on sustainability in celebration of Earth Day in his beautifully furnished gallery at the New York Design Center on April 19th . It was a perfect setting to kick off a conversation about sustainable practices: a light-filled space furnished with pieces designed by Robbins who draws inspiration from the past and travels the world to tropical jungles to buy his wood. His love of trees and wood was apparent in each hand-crafted furniture piece.

 

On the panel sat a collegial group of industry experts who have made sustainability a key part of their business: Amy Chender, COO and director of social responsibility at ABC Carpet & Home; Katharine L’Heureux, founder of Kahina Giving Beauty; John Patrick, designer of John Patrick for Organic; and Tucker Robbins. Keith Recker, editor in chief of Hand/Eye Magazine, a print and online publication that discusses the intersections between art, craft, design, philanthropy and enlightened consumption, was moderator.

Tucker Robbins

 

The event, which focused on how the current conversation around sustainability has to start with the environment, how people and planet are inextricably intertwined, and how this unbreakable link needs to include social and environmental aspects in the discussion, provided attendees with a world view of how all of us in the chain from manufacturer to designer, from beauty entrepreneur to retailer, must work together to bring the needs of the people and planet into harmony. Patrick told the audience “I think that consumers buy because it’s beautiful. It’s up to the manufacturers, designers to do the correct thing. People are always surprised to hear that I think Chanel is a sustainable business. It’s sustainable because it’s made in France, using European fabrics, the workers are all paid fairly, the garments are long-lasting-----people keep them forever!”

 

Katharine L'Heureux John Patrick Keith Recker Amy Chender

Amy Chender noted that ABC Carpet & Home provides lots of education for the consumer, signage is prominently displayed, stories are written about the products to help consumers become engaged in the stories behind the brands. The company has made a key investment in quality products that are sustainable. “If you buy a quality sustainable mattress, you’ll have it for 20 years! People don’t think that way any longer,” she said.

 

 

“Quality means efficacy. People who buy beauty products will pay a bit more if it works,” L’Heureux said, and added that when she went to Morocco, she spoke to the Berber women how she could be of help. She found out that the women needed goats, and that they’re now using the wool from the goats to create rugs which have provided an additional source of income for the women.

 

‘Be fair and kind to our world around us,” Tucker Robbins claimed. “The economy is shaky. Get back to reality, do things that save the earth. People forget that we can get by with less.” As a former monk turned furniture designer, Tucker ironically lived with almost no furniture for close to ten years. As a world traveler, he now looks to improve the carbon footprint each step of the way.

 

In closing, Recker reinforced that there must be a higher purpose to business. Value needs to be placed on hand-made, we need to understand the value of people to enterprise, and, ultimately to work for change through a process of reflection and continual improvement.