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These 12 Innovators Are Forging The Path For Sustainable Design In Australia

TDF Design Awards

Though it seems like a world away now, the climate strikes in September 2019 felt like a flashpoint in the contemporary environmental movement. Even though sustainability can be tricky to navigate in the design space – a sphere that revolves around manufacturing and construction – it is also an industry well-equipped to produce some of the most innovative solutions to this global problem. 

Supported by Country Road, the Sustainable Design award is the most diverse category in the The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards. It celebrates the thinkers, inventors and creators designing effective, thoughtful ways to combat human involvement in climate change. From small-scale urban compost systems to closed-loop terrazzo made from construction waste, these micro-solutions combine enterprise with a social conscience, and most importantly, change the way we think about our everyday contributions to the environment. Basically, this is where all the cool kids are!

Co-founder of closed-loop textile company Seljak (and last year’s winner!) Karina Seljak will join founder of Breathe Architecture, Jeremy McLeod, on the judging panel to adjudicate the winner. And they know a thing or two about sustainable design!

Join us for a closer look at this fantastic lineup of trailblazing inventions and initiatives. 

20th August, 2020

Adam Cornish Design & Junglefy, Junglefy Breathing Wall. Photo – Willem Dirk du Toit.

Adam Cornish Design + Junglefy, Junglefy Breathing Wall

Environmental infrastructure specialists, Junglefy and designer Adam Cornish have collaborated on green wall systems for over five years. Through this collaboration, it became apparent that more could be done to utilise the air cleaning properties of living plants. The Junglefy Breathing Wall is a result of this development: an indoor/outdoor system designed to actively remove pollutants from the air, harnessing nature’s inherent air cleaning and purifying qualities.

The unique insulated chamber mimics a natural microclimate through a series of fins that regulate air and moisture, encouraging the ecosystem to expand and grow new organisms. Unlike traditional potted plants and green walls, the breathing wall system engages the plant, root bundle and soil to filter air in much higher volumes. The modular system is deconstructible, meaning it can be assembled according to the size of the space.

Dale Hardiman & Stephen Royce, Open Garden. Photo – Jonathon Grigg. Good Citizens, 100% Recycled Eyewear. Photo – Dan Hilburn.

Dale Hardiman + Stephen Royce, Open Garden

Designers Dale Hardiman and Stephen Royce collaborated with technical engineers on their Open Garden project, a conceptual installation created for Melbourne Design Week in 2019. The pair transformed discarded screens into a sculptural mechanism that redistributes electronic waste into a functional light source. 

Through a process of bending, fusing and hand-wiring old LCD iPhone screens together, the final connected frame revives these previously discarded materials as a new light form.

Good Citizens, 100% Recycled Eyewear

Inspired by a primary school challenge, a father and son duo repurpose discarded single-use plastic bottles into sunglasses frames, creating two classic styles that are 100% recycled, and made in Sydney. 

Wanting to eliminate any metal components, the pair re-engineered the hinge connecting the arms to the frame so the entire product is completely made from recycled plastic. The resulting clip can be easily removed making pairs of Good Citizens sunglasses colour customisable and easily replaceable. This means if one part breaks, you don’t have to throw out the entire frame. Genius!

Dowel Jones & Soft Serve Studio, New Model. Photo – Cricket Studio. Sussex Taps, Circa. Photo – Tomas Friml.

Dowel Jones + Soft Serve Studio, New Model

New Model is the environmentally-conscious brainchild of design brand Dowel Jones and industrial design consultancy Soft Serve Studio. The brand was supposed to be launched in March of this year, one week after restrictions were imposed on Victorians. New Model intends to produce zero-waste, carbon-neutral products made from surplus, remnant and waste materials available at a commercial scale.

Eventually aiming to foray into furniture and lighting, the brand’s debut project is the zero-waste 1-Hour Bag which is made from deadstock upholstery materials. Hopefully, New Model launches with a full line of products soon!

Sussex Tapware, Circa range

Sussex Tapware is a true family business. Across four factories, all the company’s production and manufacturing is completed locally. Sussex Taps is one of the only tap companies in Australia to own and operate its own foundry. This enables them to run an internal closed loop system, whereby the chippings and debris leftover from metalwork are melted down and reused in new products.

The Circa range of hardware fittings is handmade by craftspeople locally in Melbourne, and is cast from 100% recycled brass sourced from the company’s own closed loop system. An energy system overhaul in the factories has seen emissions reduce by 30% since the installation of solar panels.

Read our full story on Sussex Taps here.

Five Mile Radius, Waste Terrazzo. Photo – Callie Marshall. Seed & Sprout, Raise The Bar. Photo – Hayley Nedland.

Five Mile Radius, Waste Terrazzo

Did you know that concrete makes up 8% of the world’s carbon emissions? This innovative concrete surface developed by Five Mile Radius turns that production cycle on its head by creating speckled terrazzo slabs entirely from construction and demolition waste collected around Brisbane. Used as a benchtop, table or seat, each unique piece combines excess wet concrete with crushed demolition waste that’s been directly diverted away from landfill.

All designs are made-to-order and totally customisable, meaning not only are they produced purely by demand, but the customer receives a completely bespoke design. It’s a win-win!

Seed & Sprout, Raise The Bar

One room at a time, Seed & Sprout are devising alternatives to conventional household items in a mission to make our homes completely (and easily) zero waste. Their latest innovation? A locally-made range of zero waste, waterless personal care products free of artificial colourants and synthetic fragrances.

By replacing water, colourants, sulphates, harmful parabens and animal products with essential native oils and natural clays, the Byron Bay-based company has created an effective alternative to these high-use, everyday hygiene products. And amassed a cult Instagram following in the process! The shampoo, conditioner, body bar, shave bar, facial cleanser, exfoliator and hand sanitising soap can be purchased in a 100% recyclable aluminium travel tin. 

Koala Eco, Eco Friendly Cleaning Products. Photo – Ian Lanterman. Returnr, Deposit-return system & products. Photo – Longboy Media.

Koala Eco

Founded in 2017, Koala Eco aimed to create a natural alternative to mainstream domestic cleaning products. By harnessing natural, native ingredients, Koala Eco’s range of cleaning and home products are plant-based and completely non-toxic, relying on the natural antibacterial properties of Australian native flora to replace industry standard chemicals.

All Koala Eco ingredients are plant-derived and biodegradable. The packaging is made from 100% recycled materials, and are completely recyclable themselves. The bottles are designed to be reused, with the company offering a refill option on nearly all their products.

Returnr, Deposit-return system + products

In a bid to reduce the amount of disposable packaging used in transporting meals, Returnr is a hospitality-focussed deposit-return system offers stainless steel reusable food and drink vessels to take-away customers. Simply make a fully refundable $6 deposit, and receive your food or drink in a twin-walled, stainless steel cup, canister or bowl. Stainless steel was chosen for its hygienic properties, and is made from predominantly recycled materials.

As well as significantly lowering the complacent consumption of takeaway packaging, the Returnr model aims to target the human error component of the waste cycle. So, even if you forget the reusable cup you use 99% of the time, Returnr means you don’t have to increase your carbon footprint if you still decide to get a latte.

Melbourne Food Hub, Grow/Source/Eat. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Commune & Co, Cirque du Soil. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Commune + Co, Cirque du Soil

Accessible, user-friendly compost systems in densely populated urban areas are few and far between. But when you consider that food rotting in landfill produces methane, which is approximately 25 times more potent than regular carbon emissions, the lack of publicly availabl composting infrastructure becomes more of a concern.

This situation is why Commune + Co. developed Cirque du Soil, a community composting initiative that engages local traders and businesses to create a hyperlocal, circular economy for food waste. The subscription-based pick-up service collects organic waste from residents, traders and businesses in local communities and deposits it in a centralised composting system. This regenerates soil, lowers methane emissions and takes urban spaces one step closer to eliminating food waste!

Sustain Australian Food Network, Grow/Source/Eat

Little did we know, but door-to-door delivery services were about to become a LOT more popular in 2020 than anyone suspected. It’s a model Sustain: The Australian Food Network have been trailing for a while with their Grow/Source/Eat project: a weekly delivery service providing subscribers with sustainably sourced and locally grown fruit and veggie boxes from small-scale urban farmers.

The original pilot model was designed to redistribute excess farm products left unsold from weekend farmers markets. This was then expanded to a subscription-based model (fortuitously) in March of this year, to guarantee a more solid customer base, provide farmers with consistent revenue and eliminate unnecessary food waste. By partnering with regenerative, next generation farmers the program encourages hyperlocal consumption and education around seasonal produce.

Waverly Woolen Mills. Photo – Nina Hamilton.

Waverley Mills, 100% Natural Fibre Recycled Range

Waverley Mills was built in 1874, making it Australia’s oldest working textile mill. Alongside the traditional blankets, rugs, throws and scarves it regularly produces, the mill has refined its recycling process with new technologies. Using a completely closed-loop system, this line of natural fibre throws is produced from the mills’ own deadstock materials.


The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards 2020 Sustainable Design or Initiative Award is presented by Country Road

Country Road’s mission is to inspire modern Australian living every day. It stands by the belief that great design is timeless, creating beautiful products that are made to last.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email