While some University of Washington designers, such as Sohroosh Hashemi with his Wax Cloth Hunting Hat, emphasized similar cultural connections as their Baltimore counterparts, the most apparent theme in the Pacific Northwest School’s response to the Challenge was that of material fabrication. A majority of University of Washington projects consisted at least partially of home-made plastics, rosins, or dyes. Instead of sourcing her materials locally, Kay Heekyung Kim produces her own bioplastic from milk and vinegar to use in her Milk Plastic Candle Holder. The natural product, in conjunction with her beeswax and green crayon candle, portrays a handmade but pleasing aesthetic that is flexible enough to fit any shape and sustainable enough to please any green stalwart.
Frances Tung utilizes the same hand-made aesthetic in the Convertible Flower Planter, a fully biodegradable and compostable pot. Inspired by broken flower pots, this alternative strives to extend the life of a pot beyond its primary use. A ceramic compound out of baking soda and corn starch is the base for the product, with a lining mixture of beeswax, tree rosin and charcoal coating the inside surface to protect the clay from moist soil. Once the pot breaks, it can be crushed and put back into planting soil, as baking soda is commonly used as a soil pH neutralizer and fungicide.
The 100 Mile Design Challenge proves that with stringent restrictions on physical resources, product designers can come up with wildly innovative green materials and objects that redefine sustainability. For a product to be truly sustainable, a design must take into consideration the full green footprint of its manufacturing process, from the energy taken to produce it to the cultural ramifications and regional economic effects of its production. If even a small percentage of other exhibitors at ICFF and NY Design Week take the lessons learned by the students at MICA and University of Washington, there is no doubt that the field of sustainable design will evolve by leaps and bounds in the coming years.