Sustainability is often labeled a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. Join us for a conversation with Mardis Bagley, Creative Director at Nonfiction. In this #MCXLive, we discuss the common misconceptions he often hears from clients, and learn how you can empower decision makers to actively incorporate sustainable materials and processes into design and manufacturing.
Mardis is a Co-Founder and Creative Director at Nonfiction, a design studio headquartered in San Francisco focused on turning science fiction into reality for a better future. He has designed for the likes of Nike, Facebook, and Logitech, and for mid-sized companies and startups too numerous to count.
An expert on sustainable design, Mardis teaches Sustainability & Social Impact at the California College of the Arts, and speaks extensively about sustainability in a video series called Future Future, where he covers the future of everything with his partner in business and life, Phnam Bagley. Below are his responses to some of attendee questions from the conversation…
How do you differentiate between biodegradable bags and plastic bags?
Mardis: This is one of the great challenges of our time. Plastic bags are cheap, light weight, surprisingly durable, so it’s easy to manufacture and ship them with relatively small carbon footprint. Unfortunately, bags don’t often get recycled properly or jam up the recycling machinery. Paper bags obviously compost easily, but they require harvesting wood, and more fossil fuels to transport than plastic. On top of that, many forests aren’t harvested sustainably, leaving animals without homes, erosion problems and contributing to global warming. Check out Sway. They are developing a seaweed plastic that just won the “Beyond the Bag” competition. They are a couple years from large scale use, but it looks super promising.
Would you advocate compostable packaging over recycled plastics?
Mardis: I think they are different problems. We have a glut of plastics that we need to get out of the waste stream. If we can use them for recycling great. I would reference Miranda Wang’s use of chemical recycling. Can we transform these plastics into a higher value plastic, or a plastic product that is not a single use product? Compostable packaging is coming a long way. [As mentioned above,] check out Sway.
Do you have any resources you could recommend for lifecycle analysis?
Mardis: I’ve used Sustainable Minds. It’s a good tool, but like most I feel there is a lot of room to grow. I’d like to see actual vendor data rather then. I’ve heard good things about other like Umberto.
So, how does one designer convince decision makers to care?
Mardis: Great storytelling. You have to communicate exceptionally well. I fully believe strategists help communicate the story and support our claims. I’m a designer at heart, and when speaking to a CEO sometimes we are speaking different languages. Our strategist specifically has an MBA so she can speak a common language and help us move ideas forward.
How do we find sources for inspiration from nature?
Seems like loop and teracycle are a good ideas, but also seems like a lot of fossil fuels or energy consumption (EVs) shipping and delivering these goods. Is there a broad view of the ecological impact that takes these factors into consideration to view their carbon footprint or lack there of?
Mardis: These companies thoroughly look at their shipping impact. I don’t know their statistics, but I would assume their models are designed around these questions. This is the brings up a hot topic – is it better to lower your carbon footprint for to remove toxins and plastics from the waste stream? Both are great things, but often come in conflict with one another.
Regarding Bob Marley: what is regrind silicone?
Mardis: Regrind Silicone is a term HoM they came up with. Regrind in general is an industry term for reprocessing plastics into pellets so it can be used in injection molding equipment.
MCX: You might find this page on the House of Marley website helpful.
How do sustainable packaging options typically hold up during shipping especially if going overseas? Is there any concern on how the contents of the package could be affected?
Mardis: It’s a case by case situation because the material development is evolving very fast. And, make sure to thoroughly vet every material. Bake it in a UV oven for days, drop test, humidity test, etc. If possible, I like to use a 3rd party to do the testing rather than the vendor or manufacturer.
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