As concern for the well-being of our planet intensifies, so does our sense of responsibility

Our current embrace of green living combines lessons from the past with new technologies to reduce our impact on the modern world. In home products, we see a new preference for locally-sourced materials and eco-friendly appliances. Driving the movement forward, designers are finding new ways to reduce waste and make sustainability accessible, without compromising style and luxury.

Innovative approaches are repurposing waste by transforming single-use objects. Refuse is being upcycled into items of higher value, such as composite materials made of textile scraps. Continuing to reformulate our definition of raw materials, we bring new life to more and more of what we once discarded.

While we have found many ways to repurpose our waste, we are also working to vastly reduce the amount we produce. Zero-waste solutions are multifaceted, ranging from reusable products that eliminate the need for single-use items to in-home composting appliances. Reconsidering the potential of waste, we are redefining what is un-usable. Manufacturing, animal, and agricultural by-products are being re-purposed as salvageable goods. Many businesses in various industries are adopting a waste-free model, coming up with new ways to capture the full value of everything that goes into their manufacturing plants.

Energy conservation and efficiency are essential to this movement. Simple lifestyle changes, such as the use of low-consumption, high-output lighting, entertainment systems, and appliances are increasingly commonplace. And as more people seek to make pollutive energy sources obsolete, more homes are being modified to run on solar power.

For all of their benefits, the scientific and technological advancements of the Digital Age have also damaged our environment. However, some of these advancements have also led to the development of new materials and manufacturing methods that are tilting the balance back in a more sustainable direction.

As the harmful effects of plastic waste become more apparent, the scientific and design communities are creating a surge of environmentally responsible, biodegradable, plant-based bioplastics. The search for organic materials that can perform the same functions as plastic – without the harmful effects – has nurtured a growing crop of hemp and seaweed-based materials.

Biotechnology is changing the way we view and utilize organic matter. Design and science merge as we tap into the benefits of biological sources, revealing a wide array of materials that not only result in more environmentally friendly products but also have a much gentler manufacturing footprint. For example, by harnessing the natural characteristics of fungi and mycelium we are growing architectural structures and 3D-printing with rapidly renewable biotic material.

Driven by the adoption of more eco-friendly lifestyles, the pace of innovation continues to advance more quickly than ever. From food to furnishings to fashion, our concern for the deteriorating state of our planet translates into preferences for local sources, lower-impact materials, and low- and no-waste solutions, in products that are at least as aesthetically pleasing as those of the past. Luxury and sustainability are no longer mutually exclusive – and responsible design is necessary – as we aspire to create a healthier environment.