Apparently, when it comes to snowflakes, we’ve been misinformed.
Adriana, a young and energetic participant in We Care, fills me in, “There’s a factory up in the clouds, stamping the snow, and that’s what’s shaping the snowflakes. They could be the same or different—it depends.”
It’s undetermined whether this explanation had anything to do with the holiday card she was decorating at the time—covered in silver ink-stamped snowflakes.
Here in Holland, Michigan, Adriana was one of 225 kids and 50 employee volunteers stamping, gluing, and coloring during the Herman Miller-sponsored arts and crafts extravaganza known as We Care.
Steve Hightower, a Herman Miller employee and avid volunteer of six years, said his favorite part is “seeing the kids smiling and running around. They get a chance to do crafts that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise. It’s really cool.”
This year marks the 16th anniversary of We Care, our partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of America and local design firms. We Care reaches 30 communities across North America and this holiday, more than 6,000 youngsters came to craft.
Drawing 680 galleries, 2,000 artists, and more than 50,000 collectors from around the globe, Art Basel Miami Beach is one of the world’s premier art shows. If you’re an art lover, it’s the place to see works from cutting-edge newcomers alongside pieces by renowned artists.
For the second year in a row, we were the show’s exclusive furniture sponsor. Across the venue—in lounges, restaurants, and VIP areas—people took a break from browsing art and enjoyed furniture from the Herman Miller Collection.
Also on display at Art Basel was a sneak peek of Then X Ten, a traveling exhibition celebrating Herman Miller’s rich history of poster design.
Art Basel was December 6-8, 2012. Couldn’t make it? Check us out on Facebook for more photos from the event.
In 2008, we began encouraging our employees to carpool and bike to work. Four years later, the program has resulted in 474,997 miles saved—that’s the equivalent of 19 trips around the earth’s equator.
Every year we collect information like miles saved, environmental emissions, and charitable activities into our Better World Report. We do this to let you know what we’re doing to reach our goals in four areas—community service, inclusiveness and diversity, health and well-being, and environmental advocacy. Are we perfect and do we always succeed? Of course not, but we believe every trip around the equator saved is a step in the right direction.
It’s a 50-cent word, but “dematerialization” just might save us millions, to say nothing of our planet. The basic idea is getting down to only what is essential, or, as Charles Eames said in the 1940s, “the best for the most for the least.”
Doing more with less certainly predates Mr. Eames, but dematerialization has had a resurgence lately, largely as a response to conspicuous consumption (McMansion anyone?), a throwaway culture (it’s cheaper to buy a new one than fix the old one), and planned obsolescence (as Annie Leonard says in The Story of Stuff, only 1% of things are still in use 6 months after purchase).
It’s no wonder those concerned about sustainability see promise in dematerialization, an idea whose logic train goes from using less material to eliminating material altogether while still delivering the same level of functionality. An example of this promise they often point to is music delivery. From LPs to cassettes to CDs to digital downloads, the progression eliminated lots of plastic waste and the resources and energy needed to make it. (The sustainability costs of using the Internet to download the music will be left to another discussion.) Read more
For University of Washington student Erik Alskog, “It’s the students who make campus green.” Busy thinking up new ways to make their school earth friendly, Alskog and his fellow classmates are redefining what it means to be green. They challenge us to imagine bike-powered monorails connecting campus with the surrounding areas where students live; new forms of wind farming that mimic swaying blades grass; and products designed to last a hundred years.
Alskog was one of three winners in our third annual Student Video Contest. We posed the question, “What makes your campus green?,” students everywhere responded, and viewers selected the winners.
Alskog is not alone in thinking of the future; students today see themselves as green innovators working to make their campuses more environmental.
To see some of the other great videos we received, click here.
Meridian filing and storage units are one of the first products to use counterweights made from the new cement mix containing recycled powdercoat.
Designing for a Better World means being mindful of the environmental impact of our products. In the past this led us to discontinue rosewood until a sustainable alternative could be found. Today it means eliminating one of our largest landfill items: the overspray from our powdercoating process.
Working in collaboration with a local West Michigan supplier, VanderWall Brothers Concrete, Herman Miller has found a way to recycle leftover powdercoat into a cement mix. The mix is used to make the counterweights that sit in the bottom of filing and storage units, preventing them from tipping over when the drawers are extended.
Testing has even shown the recycled powdercoat improves the binding qualities of the cement, producing a stronger block.It may even have applications in construction products.
Solving an industry-wide problem, we decided to share the new process with all of our competitors, ensuring that maximum environmental impact.
The cover of Bill Birchard's book Merchant of Vitrue.
What role does design play in sustaining the earth? “The biggest role,” says writer, journalist, and Merchant of Virtue author Bill Birchard. An environmental advocate and proponent of business sustainability, Birchard shared with us his thoughts on caring for the earth, the importance of measuring environmental performance, and of course, design.
There’s always a lot of press coverage around Earth Day. It’s hard to know whether we’re doing better or worse at caring for the earth. What’s your view?
I think it’s useful to distinguish between consumers and companies. As a consumer, it’s sometimes hard to see whether we’re doing much better. On the corporate side, we’re doing a lot better. And that’s significant, because corporations have a huge amount of leverage compared to consumers. A recent Sloan/MIT study showed that 68% of companies had increased their commitment to sustainability in the last year, compared to just 25% doing so two years ago. Companies still have a long way to go, but the trend toward greater responsibility by the most powerful institutions on earth—corporations—appears irreversible. Read more
Whether it’s an affordable work chair or a textile, we always approach design with a better world in mind.
Enter Gem, a new polyester upholstery fabric that is antimony-free, making it a good choice for the earth. Polyester is one of the world’s most popular polymers; unfortunately making it is harmful to the environment. Designing a better polyester meant replacing antimony, a heavy metal used as a catalyst, with titanium, a much more earth-friendly choice.
Gem is durable, inexpensive, and easy to take care of—and it’s part of Herman Miller’s quest for a Better World.
The lords are leaping and the maids are milking, but who’s been making all these stockings?
For the fifth year, holiday stockings hung along the corridors of the Herman Miller Design Yard and multiplied into the hundreds. And they’re not cookie-cutter stockings either—each are one-of-a-kind and handmade out of our textile leftovers. In fact, every once in a while, passersby try buying one for themselves to hang over their fireplace.
However, these stockings were not for sale, but rather made for a greater cause. In the season of giving, Herman Miller employees volunteered their lunch hours for sewing and decorating a total of 477 stockings. All those carefully crafted stockings were distributed to these handpicked charities: Holland Rescue Mission, Urban Family Ministries, Love INC, and St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. These organizations work directly with the families who took the stockings filled with goodies home for the holidays.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about design’s central role in our business lives. There’s been nearly as much buzz about how design, or at least design thinking, can solve big social problems. Cynthia E. Smith certainly thinks so. She highlights examples of this in her exhibition “Design for the Other 90%: Cities.” Projects in which the world’s poor have been “rescued by design” range from the favelas of Sao Paulo to the Kiberia slums in Nairobi to the canals of Bangkok. But as Michael Kimmelman points out in his review of the exhibition, these projects succeeded because the designers consulted the people living in poverty for their help in solving the problem. Human-centered design, as many of us have known for years, is the real key to designing lasting solutions to problems that people really care about.