The conference is collaboratively organized by Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design students and brings together the world’s leading minds in social entrepreneurship and design. At this year’s Expo, Zambikes presented their light-weight bamboo bicycle produced in Zambia. The company has grown exponentially since its founding in 2007 and revenues have been re-invested in local, rural communities. The young company has produced the Zambulance (bicycle ambulance trailer) and Zamcart (cargo trailer). The Zambulance aids in transporting the sick from remote locations to hospitals and the Zamcart was designed for the farming community, marketeers and small businesses and can carry up to 250 kilograms.
Another innovative project with a social conscious is led by the creative think-tank Design Global Change. The University of Hartford based project is led by Natacha Poggio and relies on student involvement in communities worldwide. On display at the Expo was a series of flashcards that form part of the Bringing Girls into Focus project. They are meant to trigger conversation among youth about women’s important roles in rural communities. In conjunction with the Navjyoti India Foundation that serves over 12,000 people in northern India, the cards will be distributed throughout their service network.
Easy Island presented their newly released line of plates and bowls produced from Areca nuts in South India. The material is produced through pressure washing and is then heat-pressed into various shapes. The light-weight, microwave safe products are completely biodegradable. After use they can be washed and re-used, fed to animals or composted along with food scraps. They support up to eight pounds of food and hold water for up to six hours. Already produced and sold in India, Easy Island is hoping to use college markets as an entry point into other United States markets.
Another international entry came from the 1/2 Project. The South Korean team presented their social venture that teams business enterprises with NGOs. Most of us consume far more than we need and are overwhelmed when disaster strikes and we are asked to donate to charity. Rather than relating the idea of giving to disaster, the 1/2 Project aims to scale down and have it become an integral part of everyday purchasing decisions. Through their design of a variety of common containers such as milk cartons and plastic bottles that are physically halved, they hope to accomplish this goal. There are currently no corporations that have signed on, but with perseverance the design could potentially change the way we view giving and make us think twice about the amount we consume.
On a more local level, a series of Designer Journals by Karl Heine are made from eco-friendly materials. The convenient 8.5″ x 5.5″ journals are filled with recycled Mohawk paper that was manufactured using wind power. Customers can chose between various covers made from up-cycled Italian leather, 97% Natural, Marmoleum Solid linoleum that comes in a range of textures and colors, Mohawk Loop Straw or a durable wetsuit like material. Even the packaging design keeps the earth in mind. The front panel becomes a bookmark and the back features a photograph by Heine that transforms into a postcard.
For kids or those with a more playful taste, a series of colorful, fun characters by kHyal form the The Weather Skwirl collection. The creatures are made of recycled plexiglass one at a time in Manhattan.
Lastly, a new part of this year’s conference included the DCI Consumer Product Challenge. This year’s winner and runner-up had the chance to display their products at the Expo which will be manufactured as part of the DCI line of products. The winning design was the Trilife Ecotray by Angie Lee and Queenie Fan of RISD. The tray is made of bamboo fibers (60%) and plastic (40%). It fits snugly over the forearm and is FDA safe and biodegradable. Runner-up McKenzie Powers of the Art Institute of Boston presented her I Am a To Go Box which is modeled after the classic to-go box but instead of paper, silicon makes it re-usable, flexible and fun.
For those inspired by this year’s conference, DCI will soon announce next year’s challenge so stay tuned!
Images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat