Designing a product that is functional, desirable, and attractive while at the same time having a minimal impact on the environment is no easy task. It’s not as simple as making a beautiful product with recyclable materials and calling it a day. The entire production process can be refined to minimize waste, pollution, and extend the life of the product. It also needs to utilize reusable materials for after the product is no longer needed. One of the winners of this year’s Cradle to Cradle Product Design Competition personifies the ethos of a product that is conscious of the environment and aesthetic in equal measure. By those standards, the origami-inspired Plano Chair has struck gold with the fold.
Designed by Michiel Meurs, the Plano Chair’s look is that of a geometric lounge, like a seat found in an early virtual reality game. The idea was to make the chair out of a single piece of material that could be shipped flat, assembled easily, and created with minimal tooling. The material itself would need to be recycled and recyclable, so Meurs chose a sheet of recycled waste polypropylene for its low weight and high strength. A brushed layer of polypropylene was added to the top surface, giving it fabric-like texture and the appearance of an upholstered chair.
Come Into the Fold
Living hinges are cut into a single sheet of material with a simple milling machine, cutting down on expensive tooling and allowing the tooling to be automated and performed nearly anywhere in the world. This simplified manufacturing process cuts out transit times because of the chair’s proximity of production to the point of distribution. Shorter shipping time equals less pollution and means the Plano Chair ticks one more box in the sustainability checklist. Once the chair is manufactured and shipped (flat, of course), the consumer folds along the living hinges and voila, a Plano is born.
No Waste in Your Space
When the chair is not in use, it’s unfolded and kept as a flat panel. This design allows storage of several Plano Chairs in a relatively small space. As anyone who has had to store more than six chairs in any one place, the ability to return the Plano to a flat surface is a fantastic use of space. When it has reached the end of its life, the entire sheet can be fully recycled, giving the chair a 99% reusability percentage. From start to finish, everything about this chair has been painstakingly considered to eliminate waste. This type of design thinking may seem arduous, but it’s better to think this way than to have to worry about solving the problem of waste and pollution that a product generates.
Michiel Meurs threads the needle of making a beautiful product that is environmentally considered throughout its lifespan all while providing a solution for consumers. For that, we say bravo to the Plano.