Economy, Ecology, Society

Yksi‘s Leonne Cuppen and VanBerlo‘s Teun van Wetten are the curators of this year’s Embassy of Sustainable Design. Leonne helps connect designers, organizations and companies to turn sustainable design into tangible, workable solutions – all over the world. She’s the head of Yksi Connect, a company based in Eindhoven. Teun works at VanBerlo, a global strategic design and innovation agency that’s also a World Design Embassy partner.

Type Update
Published on 11 October 2019
Economy, Ecology, Society
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Let’s first find out what sustainable design is about. Most people would think of it as products that are designed with materials that have been or can be recycled. But for Teun and Leonne it’s more than that. It’s about transitioning to a new way of thinking.

Teun: “My definition of sustainability is, is there’s a balance between people, planning and profit or it’s also called, economy, ecology and society. Same thing. It’s really important that you balance all three elements and within those three elements don’t prioritize one over the other.”

“If it’s truly a sustainable design, it captures the right balance between society, economy and ecology, which means there has to be a lot of collaboration”, says Teun. “Sustainable design is a part of good design”, says Teun. “But it’s not just ecology. If you envision ecology, economy and society as three circles, then where they all overlap, that’s what sustainability is.

Always Be Curious

Participation and curiosity are key: “You should always be curious. You should also be always be willing to experiment and to play. And you should have a lot of fun doing it.”

“When you see the graduates these days from design academies, there is no question about sustainability, because it’s normal. It’s just there. A few years ago we had to think about it and now… it’s common.”

“I think that’s also very important, that the industry and companies open their doors for the young generation, because they exactly know how to do things, but it’s quite difficult for them to get in this position that they really can make a change. So you at this moment it’s a bit in between, you have the old part and you have something new and how can you combine that? this takes a while and then, I think that the new generation knows exactly how to act and when we are 10, 15 years further on, then it’s embedded.”

Teun van Wetten
Leonne Cuppen

Reusable Cups

Teun worked together with Heineken to solve the problem of so many single-use cups being used at the festival. “If you want to create behavioral change, it’s not going to happen instantly. It brings challenges, but there are many more opportunities.”

Heineken’s idea was that every festival goer would get a reusable cup when they enter the festival, and turn it in again when they leave. “But in sustainable design, you not only design a reusable cup, you think about how people are going to use it, and its entire life cycle. Imagine that you are at a concert which you’ve been really looking forward to go to and you’re standing somewhere near the front, hopefully waiting for your favorite artist to appear. And then you finish your drink, but you don’t want to leave because your artist is starting. Why would you want to walk back to the bar? So to prevent people from throwing cups away before it’s necessary, you provide them with something to hold it in.”

But instead of making it out of just anything, you make it out of the same colour and material that the company uses for other things, so that the post-festival recycling process is easier. “The very first people who reacted their concerns said “it’s plastic” and it was also said in a way that is bad. And that’s why we’re going to address some things in the exhibition, that not all plastic is bad for example.”

Leonne adds: “I think that you don’t do things because of economic value, but because it’s meaningful and that’s really a different mindset because a lot of industry is still working on things about the money, about ego, these kind of things and the new ways to do it. Because it’s meaningful, because we want to change, because we like to do it altogether and it’s a different way of thinking.”

"Governments, the industry, educational institutes and citizens: they all have a part to play"

“It’s very important that not just myself, our studio, but all, citizens, governments, knowledge institutes and members of industry realize that they have their role to play. And part of this exhibition is to show that all these different components need to do so to move forward and get ourselves to a better future for everyone.”

“The stuff we’re trying to fix also requires a behavioral change and behavioral change doesn’t happen instantly. It takes time. Um, you can really speed them up and you can create catalyst to do so. But all of these four components – governments, the industry, educational institutes and citizens – need to work together in order to achieve the amount of change we need.”

“We ask of all people who participate in the exhibition to be transparent about what they want to achieve, but also what their challenges are and maybe even invite others to think with them about how they can tackle these challenges. You need the right persons and the right familiar goals and then everything fits, then you can create something new and something beautiful. And I think all these ingredients are there. So let’s do it.”

Example: Beyond Coffee

Coffee, isn’t that a simple and natural product? Yes, but if you look at the entire chain, you will discover that there are still many challenges on the path to real sustainability for people and the environment. The Beyond coffee exhibition shows how designers take up those challenges and look with great creativity for new paths that lead to a truly circular economy. It’s on display at Yksi Expo at Dutch Design Week from of October 19 – 27, 2019.

Circular Espresso Machine by Studio Bas Froon
Coffeeground cups by Kaffeeform

Companies, designers and start-ups devise and develop innovative concepts and products at various points in the coffee chain. From coffee subscriptions and modular coffee machines to compostable packaging, cups and capsules. Coffee grounds can also be reused in a variety of ways: in soap and hair products, as a basis for the cultivation of oyster mushrooms, as a raw material for shoes, furniture or a cover of a notebook, in jewellery and even for making glasses.

The Beyond Coffee exhibition is curated by Leonne Cuppen (Yksi Connect) in collaboration with Walter van Hulst and designers Daria Biryukova and Aurore Brard.

Beyond Coffee by Yksi Expo

The World Design Embassies are a programme of the Dutch Design Foundation, and work year-round with partners and stakeholders to look at the role that design can play in the development of new perspectives and concrete solutions to the challenges we face as a society in a quickly-changing world.

The Embassies are also a part of Dutch Design Week, where the world comes to Eindhoven to discover innovation through the eyes of designers, design thinking and design skills. During Dutch Design Week, the Embassies take on a physical form – in exhibitions, lectures, discussions and workshops – so that ideas, expertise and insight can be shared, with experts but also with the general public.

In this series, we take a look at each of the six Embassies in detail and through this, we will explore the challenges and solutions for future societies. Think Climate change, urbanization, the increasing use of technology in our lives – where is it all leading, and how can we shape our society around those things in a positive, meaningful way? Don’t forget to check our other episodes on the embassies of health, water, safety, mobility and circular & biobased building. And do join us during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, from October 19th until the 27th 2019. Hope to see you there.

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