Whether you’re into textiles, business or full-blown eco-activism, sustainability’s on everyone’s mind: COP26 is around the corner, documentaries like Seaspiracy still make us frantically search for cheap ‘pole and line caught tuna’ and my instagram feed is nothing but ads for shampoo bars and bamboo toothbrushes.
So here are three mags that look at sustainability in their own marvellous, independent ways…
"The most mundane and abundant waste product of them all"
Selvedge is a firm favourite here at Pics & Ink. It’s all about textiles, and their history, heritage and design around the globe. In what is a notoriously wasteful industry, Selvedge has a huge focus on sustainability and local artisans. Its latest issue is arguably all about sustainability as it is dedicated to ‘the most mundane and abundant waste product of them all,’ the humble straw.
How can you have a whole textile magazine about straw? I thought. Well, ask editor, Polly Leonard as the ‘Grow’ issue is one of their finest. Inside, they explore the tradition of straw embroidery from 15th century vestments to Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress, as well as corn dollies, regency bonnets, and Shetland skeklers (who sang for their supper in straw costumes).
There’s also a great piece on Japan’s use of rice straw in shoes, hats and clothing. We learn how the Japanese made raincoats out of this byproduct, which were worn by everyone from peasants to Samurai (to prevent their armour from oxidising in the rain, don’t you know).
I guess we can all learn a thing or two about sustainability from the straw-weavers around the world.
"A continuous cycle of human and nature"
One of my favourite features from the first issue of Storied was the one I read last. From the pictures I thought it was about beautifully hand-crafted wooden surfboards, (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but like many of the best articles, that’s just a springboard to a much broader theme, and in fact leads to a story about declining traditions and sustainability.
The piece is really about urushi, the product and process of making lacquer from tree sap, which creates the beautiful finish on said surfboards. This tradition has been used for hundreds of years because of its sustainable practice, but when traditional forestry management was abandoned for cheaper imports, the number of trees declined followed by the number of craftsmen who knew how to tap them.
It’s a beautiful piece of about protecting heritage and bringing back sustainable practices. The team behind these awesome surfboards along with the Japanese government are rebuilding the urushi industry and helping to improve biodiversity along the way. Just one of many beautiful stories in this journal about the cultures and traditions of Japan.
"If you create waste, you’re just stupid"
The latest issue of Nomad looks at sustainability on a more macro-level, not just looking at sustainable practices but blowing up the whole idea of sustainability.
Nomad is a design journal that looks at the future of design, talking to innovators and deep-thinkers on how design shapes the way we live and vice versa.
In the latest issue, there’s an interview with the very clever (and very plain-speaking) Michael Braungart. Introduced as ‘the controversial chemistry teacher,’ Braungart challenges the idea that recycling = good. Using recycled plastic bottles to make cycle paths is all very well, but it creates more microplastics, and longer lasting tyres seem like a good idea until you realise we’re now breathing in more worn off rubber particles. Hmmm. No thanks.
Braungart blasts the circular economy as ‘boring’ and linear and he proposes cradle-to-cradle design wherein there’s no such thing as waste, only ‘nutrients’ that can become new products. He envisages investing in technologies to make this happen, creating more intelligent products that are leased not owned. What does that actually mean? Well, I’m not sure I totally get it, but one of his inventions is an ever-lasting motor oil that’s sold as part of the car rather than a separate product that will always need topping up. Sounds interesting, eh?
This issue of Nomad also looks at other sustainable design ideas, like bacteria-based fabric dyes and sustainable furniture design. If you’re interested in the big ideas in designing the future, sink your teeth into Nomad.
These are just a few examples of the indie mags engaging with sustainability. Click here to browse more!