Are we over-hyping our concern for plastics and pollutants that by far outlives us? It’s not as if it has any direct impact that we should worry about. Noooo need to worry.

I think a part of all of us living now has been desensitized to pollution. The fact that so much of it has already been translated to mass media is yesterday’s news. We’ve all seen images of landfill again and again; pipes of smoke filling the air with black soot; acid rain causing forest to die and wither. So the list goes on. But it all seems so distant and alien to us, and not at all a part of who we are and how we live. Those are rather the immediate and visible effects of pollution decades past. What we have on top of that now is the slow and chronic effects of invisible toxins that enter our bodies on a regular basis.

cover_largeI must admit I’ve been under the influence and persuasion of co-authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie with their book Slow Death by Rubber Duck[y]. The authors have influenced my perceptions about the everyday object. Take your synthetic plastic bags, plastic microwave containers, plastic table sets, water bottles, baby bottles, bins, shower curtains, you name it, all of which are taking over every corner of our lives. Harmless? Yes, to the naked eye. Under the microscopic lens however, these scientists telltale a chemical known as Bisphenol-A which can be easily increased within the short span of days to triple and quadruple within your body. What it correlates to are signs of prostate deformity in early childhood, prostrate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. A piece of the puzzle just fell into place as to why there’s such an increase in cancer cases. Chemicals and molecules like Bisphenol-A are easy to accumulate in the body, easy to pass to the next generation, but highly persistent.

eggshells-300x300What doctors and practiced physicians do for us are ends to an already existing problem, what we can do to reduce if not eliminate the sources of these problems begin at the initial stage of design and production. Rather than preach to an audience on what a mess we’ve made to the environment and to ourselves, designers, engineers, and thinkers of our community are proposing affordable solutions that will rid us some of these toxic soup bubbling within our bodies.

Simply detoxing yourself by eating organic foods isn’t enough, because chemically treated materials such as wrappings, packing can leach chemicals into your body fairly easily. Alternative substitutes are beneficial on several levels if we all made an effort:

tofu-balloons-300x218Natural fiber products such as wool, cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester are naturally resistant to flames. Though on the pricier ends of commercial shelves, they can eliminate some paranoia about clothing or fabric deliberately catching fire from high temperatures. If by chance it does catch on fire, they are resistant to rapid spread of the flame. And since these materials has a high durability and is time tested from an ecological standpoint, that you buy can last much longer than synthetically made, disposable materials.

Because these materials have biological properties that does not need to by synthetically mimicked, the production of these materials would require less energy. In here, the reduce from the three Rs model is definition at its best.

In the reuse department, organic materials such as bio-polymer have much the versatility compared to its man-made cousins in synthetics. These organically compounded materials can be molded into purpose-driven products to better suit  the need of the market. And unlike conventional artificial materials, under the prolonged exposure and oxidation process, it will again return to the environment as minerals for topsoil.

We can potentially create and repurpose any left over organic product in the main time to suit our needs. There is much in the creative aspect to explore the shape, composition and natural properties of natural materials. To end things on a positive note, some inspirational packaging from Japan and Thailand gives us some insight as to the possibilities of human imagination that are aesthetically and biologically beautiful.


by: Mary Zhao