I think cardboard is beautiful. It’s a sustainable material that has the ability to be so many things: natural and industrial, rough and smooth, ragged and precise, flexible and rigid.
I’ve been in love with cardboard since art college when my desk was piled high with egg boxes and scraps of paper. That hasn’t changed. I find bits of packaging, paper and pieces of cardboard endlessly intriguing and fascinating.
The fact that cardboard is often overlooked makes me like it all the more. Here are just some of the reasons why it’s a great sustainable material plus some actions you can take to embrace sustainability at home.
1. Cardboard has amazing structural properties
Cardboard is a heavy paper that’s incredibly stiff and durable. You get corrugated cardboard when you have three layers of heavy paper with the fluted inner ruffle on the inside of the two outer layers.
I’ve always been fascinated by that inventive, corrugated construction. It creates the fantastic pattern you find in my lampshades just through cutting and shaping. When I started making my lampshades and learnt more about the manufacturing process of this great, sustainable material I appreciated it even more.
For me, cardboard is made all the more wonderful by it’s ‘ordinariness’. It’s so efficient and widely used that we take all the ways we use it for granted. It’s the kind of thing that inspires me as a designer to take on the challenge of turning it into something completely out of the ordinary.
When layered up, cardboard is incredibly strong. Frank Gehry made his beautiful ‘Wiggle’ chair out of corrugated cardboard in 1972 and Sander architects made an entire room.
Rabobank building by Sander Architects.
2. Cardboard is a fantastic example of closed loop recycling
If we’re ever really going to get to grips with managing waste and the environment then closed loop recycling is the way forward. It means that waste is collected, recycled and used again to make the same product that it came from. This is a fantastic system and helps us manage waste and the environment.
In this respect cardboard is the most amazing sustainable material. It’s 100% recyclable and biodegradable but also made in the first place from 70 - 90% recycled substances.
It’s a superb eco-material and I love that everything I make can be recycled once it’s come to the end of its useful life.
Sustainable action to take: Sign up to Ecologi and let them help you to become carbon positive and make a difference.
3. Cardboard has a history of being versatile
The origins of this brilliant, sustainable material go back to 1856 when Englishmen Edward G. Healy and Edward E. Allen patented a process of pleating paper to give it a wavy shape. Their goal was to introduce this new-found invention into the inside of top hats, increasing comfort and durability.
Around 20 years later, people started using cardboard to protect goods as it had a great ability to absorb shocks. By 1871 Albert L. Jones was using it as protective packaging for glass bottles and kerosene lamp chimneys. He found that cardboard gave better protection than fabrics and was much more hygienic and clean than the sawdust regularly used to protect goods and cushion them from knocks.
Cardboard has come a long way and is now being used to make all kinds of things including lamps, furniture and even buildings.
Paper Furniture by Studio Molo.
Sustainable action to take: Start to question and understand why we live the way we do. Work out the changes we need to make and the reasons that we don’t to see the difference that you can make. Green Dreamer can help.