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Regenerative design: repairing the world with Carole Collet

Sunrise over cornfield
Tim Hüfner/Unsplash
Dec 15, 2021 By WGSN Insider

In our white paper, Create Better, we outlined some business strategies to develop systems and products that respond to the climate crisis. Now, we’re introducing a must-know approach for designers keen to create a positive impact – regenerative design.

For this podcast episode on Create Tomorrow, WGSN Creative Director Lisa White sat down with Carole Collet, professor of design for sustainable futures at Central Saint Martins. As director of Maison/0 – the Central Saint Martins and LVMH platform for regenerative luxury – and co-director of the Design and Living Systems Lab, Collet is an authority on how understanding biological living systems might inform better design. 

Tune in to find out what we can learn from plant intelligence, the importance of choosing our words carefully and how multi-species thinking can open designers’ minds.

Defining the new regenerative narrative

“When you ask, can you go beyond sustainability? Can you start to repair climate and biodiversity through your very act of creativity? It’s really a radical transformation. People want to be part of that repair, that restoration, and that’s where we need to move, but without falling into another greenwashing trick. 

I’m already seeing a lot of people using the term ‘regenerative’, when what they mean is a sort of broad sustainability that doesn’t actually mean that it’s repairing or regenerating carbon or climate or biodiversity. We need to be very precise with our words so that we don’t lose the power of that new narrative.”

Hand holding three plant seedlings
Daniel Öberg/Unsplash

Regenerative design in action

“One of my favourite designers is Fernando Laposse, what he did was simply reinvesting in the land, replanting native corn. He’s been working on this for nearly 10 years now and he’s restoring biodiversity. The byproduct of the corn, which is the leaf that you collect from the husk, is transformed into surface treatment for interior design. 

So basically, the product he creates is the consequence of regenerating land and biodiversity. Currently, the way most of us design is we think of natural resources as a means to design a product, but in regenerative design the product is the end result of regenerative process – in this case it’s regenerating the soil.”

Fernando Laposse and his project, Totomoxtle
Fernando Laposse’s Totomoxtle, a material made of Mexican native corn husks/Emilio Diaz

Multi-species thinking

“More and more designers are excited by this multi-species thinking because it’s opening up a whole new different way of designing in terms of creativity. Instead of just designing for humans, you can design for every species and incorporate their behaviour, their need and their parameters for survival in how we design. So it’s exponentially augmenting our potential as designers.”
– Carole Collet, professor in design for sustainable futures, director of Maison/0, co-director of Living Systems Lab at Central Saint Martins UAL

To hear the full discussion tune in to Episode 39 of our Create Tomorrow podcast, Regenerative Design: Repairing the World with Carole Collet on Anchor, Apple and Spotify.

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