Better World, Design
August 10, 2011
Finnish material specialists, Ore. E. Refineries, recently caught our attention with their post on the how-to website Instructables entitled, How Not To: Design a Chair. A title guaranteed to pique our interest because we think hard before we design a chair. The post is a challenge to designers to refrain from designing chairs in 2012.
The guys as at Ore. E. Refineries raise some great points, namely that there are a lot of chairs in the world. They ask us to rethink the meaning of sustainable design and suggest repairing old chairs. So why did they create a how-not-to? Wouldn’t a call to action be more powerful that a call to non-action? Engage designer to use their talents to creating “new” chairs from old chairs, or perhaps a how-to on repairing old chairs would have been useful. Positive challenges will lead to positive outcomes.
Do you agree?
Better World, Design
August 8, 2011
Charles Eames had been explicit with Herman Miller executives when the lounge chair that would bear his name was being developed: it had to be made of rosewood, a wood treasured for its rich color and personality. Unfortunately in the decades since the chair’s introduction, the massive Brazilian rosewood trees that supplied the veneer were disappearing, and slash-and-burn methods of clearing tropical rainforest were endangering an entire ecosystem. This created a dilemma: Do we ruin a wonder of modern design or a wonder of nature?
Nature won, and in 1991 we ceased using rosewood. It was a decision supported by Ray Eames, Charles’ design partner.
In 2006, the Eames lounge and ottoman recaptured its original appearance with the introduction of Santos Palisander, a sustainable species of Bolivian rosewood harvested from well-managed, certified forests. Santos Palisander closely resembles the aesthetic of the original Brazilian rosewood that Charles had insisted was integral to his design.
Almost 60 years ago, Herman Miller founder D.J. De Pree defined a key company value when he stated, “We will be a good steward of the environment.” Since then we have worked hard and taken great pride in making sure that nature wins. The discontinuation of rosewood and the subsequent introduction of Santos Palisander is just one example. To learn more about our journey to become an environmental leader, please check out Merchants of Virtue, coming soon.
Better World, Design
July 12, 2011
First, I’m not disparaging Danish design; quite the contrary. The zero represents an audacious goal for us: Getting to a zero operational footprint by 2020. For the Danes, the goal is to be known as the world’s leading design society by 2020. By that they mean a society where design is integral to the way everyone—from government official to average citizen—uses design to make life better. A big, audacious goal. Will they achieve it? If we’re any indication, yes. People laughed at us when in 2004 we said we’d get to a zero by 2020: no VOC air emissions, no process water use, no hazardous waste, no solid waste to landfills. Today, just seven years into it, we’re nearly 91 percent of the way there. Let’s cheer for the Danes.
Better World, What's Up
May 19, 2011
Get your attention? I know it got mine.
That is the beauty of Pechakucha: 20 seconds per slide and only 20 slides is just 400 seconds to tell your story. Grab the audience’s attention early, move quickly, and be concise, and you will be successful.
Brian Malarkey, author of the “We spend 19% of our money on cars” quote, spent 400 seconds (6:40) making the case for a better approach to energy consumption. He feels that the future will require us to explore and support alternative transportation options, not just rely on cars.
Brian was among eight presenters who answered the question, “What does it mean to be a sustainable city?” as part of a themed Pechakucha (PK) event held in Herman Miller’s Houston showroom. From the built environment, to conserving the natural environment, to sustainability as a public-policy issue, everyone delivered a unique perspective on the theme
Sustainability is an important topic for Houston as it challenges itself to become a truly sustainable city. And for Herman Miller as well, as we move closer to our goal of zero waste by 2020.
Checkout Pechakucha’s website to find a PK near you, and for information on starting your own event.
Photo: Ian Johnston
May 2, 2011
Steve Frykholm poses with his students in Aba, Nigeria, 1966.
“Do what I did and join the Peace Corps,” was Steve Frykholm’s answer when asked what advice he had for students. “It was a great experience,” he continued, “I have been working for 41 years. What was two years out of my life? I learned a lot. It helped my self-esteem. It helped my confidence. It also taught me screen-printing. If I hadn’t been in the Peace Corps would I have done [the picnic] posters?”
Wow, Steve Frykholm, whose work is highly regarded and on display in MOMA, may have never learned the skill that made him famous if he had not lived in Africa. What is two years? For Steve, it focused his interest and started his career.
I had a similar experience, having spent a long time living in Japan, and would agree with Steve. The experience I gained was invaluable and really helped me to better understand who I am–I am a much better person for that.
Steve’s advice was great. Really, what is two years in the whole scheme of things? I wish more students would challenge themselves to experience something different. Sometimes you have to leave everything you know to discover who you are.
April 25, 2011
Do you know that Herman Miller has a program that arranges for companies to donate its used furniture to charitable organizations? It’s called rePurpose and it’s recycling at its very best.
The purpose of the rePurpose program is to keep used furniture out of landfills. But it does so much more than that. For example, John Deere recently used rePurpose when they redid their world headquarters in Illinois, and their used furniture was given several new homes, including a day care center, Big Brothers/Sisters, and Habitat for Humanity, all local organizations.
“The donated furniture was in really good shape and we were thrilled to receive it!” says Cindy Kuhn, a Director at Habitat.
April 22, 2011
At this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, some of the most recognized people influencing environmental sustainability took center stage with support provided by our Setu chairs. Bill McDonough and Sir Richard Branson, for example, were among the presenters. They said some wild things. Dave Steiner, CEO of Waste Management, predicted a future where his company will pay customers for their trash because he can extract so much value from it by repurposing, reusing, and recycling it. Or Sir Richard Branson announcing Virgin Oceanic, a super sub designed to take one person to the bottom of the world’s oceans as a way to further our understanding of this huge resource.
Another great—and practical—addition to this year’s conference came from AT&T. The company provided a charging station powered by wind and solar energy. This was a relief to many tweeters and bloggers who had the power they needed to make their posts accessible to everyone.
New this year, Herman Miller offered attendees a chance to nominate a 501c3 non-profit organization of their choice for the chance to win $25,000 worth of Herman Miller furniture. And today we’re pleased to announce Urban Prep Academies as the recipient.
Based in Chicago, Urban Prep operates a network of all-boys public schools including the country’s first charter high school for boys. Urban Prep’s mission is to provide a high-quality and comprehensive college-preparatory educational experience to young men that results in graduates succeeding in college.
Urban Prep Academies was selected at random from the entries submitted by conference delegates at our onsite mobile station. The new Herman Miller products will help Urban Prep Academies do its good works even better—and make a better world for all of us.
Better World, Education
April 15, 2011
As part of the Herman Miller Education team’s recent book drive, our dealership, Workplace Resource Southern California, collected books for some very deserving children.
After collecting the books, we delivered two Herman Miller Meridian red bookcases to the volunteer organization School on Wheels. The bookcases arrived full of children’s books ranging from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to Harry Potter.
The books were barely out of the boxes before the kids started chattering in anticipation. They chose their favorite book, flipped through pages, shared stories, and pointed out the funny and bizarre pictures. Then silence filled the room as the stories engulfed them. The eagerness in these young faces was enough to evoke a single word – awesome!
School on Wheels’ volunteers tutor homeless children, give them school supplies and backpacks, help them file necessary paperwork, and even offer each child a dedicated phone number so the child can meet the school board’s requirements for enrollment. The organization is determined to end the cycle of poverty by “shrinking the gap in their education and by providing them with the highest level of education possible.”
Herman Miller collected almost 8,700 books in its national book drive. If you would like to make a book donation, check out Better World Books for more information.
Images courtesy of Juan Luis Garcia
Better World, Design
April 8, 2011
When TreeHugger asked its readers to vote online for the 2011 Best of Green in Design and Architecture, our SAYL chair came out on top. The popular blog, which focuses on driving sustainability mainstream, includes the Best of Green Readers’ Choice online voting is part of its annual Best of Green awards.
Designed by Yves Béhar, the SAYL chair is unique for its Eco-Dematerialised design, which means we used fewer materials in inventive ways to make the chair attainable for more people. Fewer parts and less material ultimately mean less cost and a smaller carbon footprint needed to make SAYL chairs. And, we produce them on three continents to cut the distance between factory and buyer.
TreeHugger points out that it’s a great time for green and we agree.
Congratulations to all the Best of Green winners and thank you to everyone who voted for SAYL!
Better World, What's Up
April 6, 2011
We’ve been working to get to zero operational footprint by 2020. Right now we’re 91 percent of the way there. People have recognized us for our effort and, on Friday, March 25, I accepted an award on behalf of Herman Miller for Best Sustainability Performance at the Social Innovation Awards. It was an unusual experience because, unlike the other eight or so award recipients in other categories, Herman Miller had no opposition! There were no other nominees in our category, no nail-biting seconds of silence, no exciting build-up of tension. It was only us.
The audience of CEOs, CFOs and VPs from major blue chip companies, such as Coca Cola, Cisco, Nokia, Nestlé, Walmart, all heard there was just one company so far ahead of the game there was no need to ask for other nominations. And if they want to understand how to make a real difference and get that message to stakeholders, then they would do well to take notice of what Herman Miller is doing.
At that moment, I understood how far Herman Miller has come and how much people respect us for doing the right thing.