Innovative graphic designers create floor coverings from “waste” materials
|In domains||Reuse of Materials, Textile|
Couper Croiser is a design studio founded in 2006 by industrial designers François Palmer and Jean-François Rousseau. After realising that landfill sites and Écocentres actually contained a fair amount of new material, the two environmentally-aware entrepreneurs launched the company, whose mission is to take some of this material – namely, new carpet and rug remnants disposed of by manufacturers – and create something of value.
Carpet manufacturers generate hundreds of tons of leftovers each year, which in Québec account for 7% of all waste found in landfills. Palmer and Rousseau therefore decided to collect new carpet remnants from a major manufacturer in the province and use them to make “value-added” carpets and rugs. In doing so, the two designers adopted an “eco-design” approach.
The underlying notion behind eco-design is the incorporation of environmental concerns into the design of a service, good or manufacturing process. This approach retains traditional design criteria (e.g., quality, longevity, functionality, ergonomics, safety, etc.) and meets standard requirements regarding regulations, brand image, and so forth. However, eco-design also takes into account the potentially negative effects that a given product may have on the environment (e.g., resource consumption, air pollution, waste production, etc.). The design stage – i.e., before production has even begun – provides the best opportunity to lower costs and improve a product’s environmental profile. Proper lifecycle management (from the extraction of raw materials to the end of a product’s usefulness) will lead to better overall environmental performance. There is also an international standard that favours this kind of design: ISO 14062, “Environmental management: Integrating environmental aspects into product design and development.”
Mise en place
The idea of reusing carpet remnants led Couper Croiser to create an innovative product: the AJUSTÉTM modular carpet. The concept involves taking multiple asymmetrical carpet tiles and putting them together in various configurations. Similar to the products designed by InterfaceFLOR (www.interfaceflor.com), the added value of AJUSTÉTM carpets and rugs is the flexibility they offer (i.e., the many different shapes and arrangements that are possible).
To find a supplier of carpet remnants, Palmer and Rousseau simply contacted several carpet manufacturers and offered to collect their commercial leftovers. According to the designers, most of these companies want to reduce the amount of waste they produce and are therefore interested in seeing carpet remnants reused.
By adopting a graphic approach to design, the company offers consumers and homeowners a way to create individualized floor coverings by arranging carpet tiles in a number of different ways. There are four basic steps involved in using AJUSTÉTM modular tiles:
1. Collect the carpet remnants;
2. Sort through the remnants and store them;
3. Cut the remnants into tiles according to a given geometrical pattern;
4. Bind the edges of the tiles to prevent them deteriorating, and attach the carpet underlayer (made of recycled felt) and anti-slip pads using Velcro disks.
Launching a company usually entails various financial hurdles, such as start-up costs, purchases, labour, promotion, and so on. To get Couper Croiser up and running, Palmer and Rousseau received financial assistance, training, advice, supervision, and other support from Québec’s “Support for Self-Employment” program, SAGE (Systèmes Avancés de Gestion d’Entreprises) and the local CDEC (Corporation de développement économique communautaire).
The Québec market is rather small and there are not many “green” suppliers in the province. Finding certain items and materials that are necessary for production, such as environmentally-friendly glues and carpet underlayers, can be difficult. Therefore, Couper Croiser has focused on improving environmental performance by ensuring that their modular carpets last as long as possible. Although they have yet to carry out a detailed lifecycle assessment, Palmer and Rousseau know which aspects of their product’s environmental profile need to be improved; other substantial obstacles include financial constraints and the difficulty involved in obtaining the abovementioned products. Research and development is ongoing; the two designers are always on the lookout for new ideas and they try to ensure that their suppliers measure up environmentally.
Visibility and Image
Promoting Couper Croiser requires a substantial investment of time and energy. Building a customer base and publicising the product demands considerable public relations work. However, when told that AJUSTÉTM carpet tiles are made of new material directly from the manufacturer, consumers are quite receptive and appreciate what the company is doing.
In 2008, Couper Croiser was awarded the “Prix de la relève” in the Prix Intérieurs-Ferdie contest, which recognizes interior design excellence in Québec. The prize illustrates that companies based on innovation and sustainability can indeed be profitable.
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