Sourcing materials is the foundation of every design process, but the practice often doesn’t align with sustainable philosophies. Increasingly, companies and individuals alike are seeking natural products that can be used in new and innovative ways. One designer, Gaurav MK Wali, is an example of this goal with his use of discarded pine needles as a 100 percent bio-based and biodegradable material that can be incorporated into a variety of products.

small trays made from pine needles

The Cheer Project, as Wali has dubbed the innovation, is a result of the desire to solve a fire hazard issue in the nearby forests. According to Wali’s website, “The northern region of India is home to the pine trees. These forests cover most of the lands of Himachal and Uttarakhand, but these states are facing menacing problems caused by an excess of dry pine needles on the forest floor, causing frequent forest fires and several other environmental issues. With a forest cover of about 40,000 square kilometers, the damage is incalculable with no significant solution to the problem yet.”

Related: Biodegradable ‘Forest Wool’ furniture is made entirely out of pine needles

flower vases made from pine needles

The process of converting pine needles into a durable product material begins by “shedding” the pine needles into smaller components. Subsequently, a composite is produced by adding natural waxes and binders to the pine needle fibers. For variety, some of the composite is dyed with natural colors from local vegetables and spices.

drink coasters made from pine needles

Because the initial and final products are all-natural, the Cheer Project has created a material that is not only bio-based and biodegradable but also water-resistant, fire-resistant and recyclable. Perhaps most importantly, the innovation incorporates materials that are otherwise unused and would feed forest fires. The full manufacturing process produces no waste or pollution.

small object trays made from pine needles

At its core, the Cheer Project is an experiment aimed at finding a sustainable material as an alternative to plastic, petroleum-based products and other environmentally damaging substances. In addition, the goal is to boost the economies of rural areas of Himachal via a sustainable craft.

“It has been an experiment to understand the root of a local material and its potential and possibilities in an ever-increasing demand for alternatives for the production of sustainable objects,” Wali said. “The ultimate concept rested on the fusion of local craftsmanship and sustainable utilization of a naturally abundant novel material — the rediscovery of the pine needle.”

+ Gaurav MK Wali

Images via Gaurav MK Wali