Coffin, 'Stately Tree', cardboard / plastic / metal, designed and made by LifeArt Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2009
This coffin is significant as a design object, and also as an example of an Australian made product that has been designed and manufactured to minimise its negative impact on the environment. It is made from specifically engineered cardboard called "Enviroboard", which is made from 97% recycled materials and produces up to 60% fewer carbon emissions than regular coffins made from MDF or particle board.
LifeArt coffins are not only made from recycled materials, but can also be custom designed with any chosen graphics or images. This product allows people to view coffins in a new way, and shows that sustainable design can be applied to many different products.
Adoption of sustainable design is not a passing trend. It is fast becoming a mainstream way of thinking as we face more and more challenges in sustaining our food supply, water, and our environment. The throwaway mentality of modern day culture combined with the current environmental crisis puts a spotlight on sustainable design. It plays an important role in delivering products that have a greater lifespan, and a better efficiency in their use of materials and energy. Sustainable design is vitally important to help eliminate the negative environmental impacts of industrial production.
The Philosophy of Sustainable Design
Fan Shu-Yang, Bill Freedman, and Raymond Cote (2004). "Principles and practice of ecological design". Environmental Reviews. 12: 97-112
Assistant Curator, July 2009
This product was designed by Natalie Verdon and Eckhard Kemmerer, founders of LifeArt Australia. The product was manufactured at their Silverwater factory, Sydney.
The coffin is made from specifically engineered cardboard called "Enviroboard", which is manufactured using fibres recovered from 65% post-consumer kraft paper waste and 35% sugar cane waste bonded with cornstarch glue. These are compressed between two printable liners to make an ultra-strong, ultra-light board. The outer liner is made of 92% post-consumer kraft paper waste and 8% virgin fibre from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sources. There is about 300g of cornstarch glue in the board used to make a LifeArt coffin.
Most Australian coffins (89%) are made of Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF), often called kraftwood. MDF is made by bonding virgin wood fibre with formaldehyde resin under pressure and heat. There is about 3.2kg of formaldehyde resin in the board used to make an MDF coffin. Making the board used in an MDF coffin releases the equivalent of about 33 kg of CO² into the atmosphere. Making the recycled cardboard used in a LifeArt coffin releases the equivalent of about 13kg of CO² into the atmosphere. Independent cremation tests conducted by Stephenson Environmental Management found that MDF coffins had pollutant levels 213% higher than LifeArt coffins made of recycled cardboard.
This coffin was made in Sydney, and displayed in 2009 at the Powerhouse Museum in the 'Eat Green Design' showcase as part of the Sydney Design 09 festival.
Created by Cilla Maden of Collaborate, Eat Green Design was a temporary exhibition, restaurant and theatrette, hosting diners, guest speakers, and the latest 'green' products. It encouraged participants to stretch the perception of what 'sustainability' means and challenged them to explore the ways in which they could incorporate the principles of ecologically sustainable design into their own lives.
The Eat Green Design installation was designed and purpose-built by award-winning architect Hannah Tribe of Tribe Studio, Surry Hills, and demonstrated best practice principles in sustainable architecture and interior design. It also showcased a selection of innovative, sustainable products from independent designers from around Australia.
The Powerhouse Museum and Eat Green Design, invited designers to submit products to exhibit in a showcase during Sydney Design 09 festival. The display featured some of the best Australian product designs, highlighting the latest in sustainable, green design concepts.
The judging panel called for submission of products, by designers, and chose the most outstanding entries. Criteria included the use of efficient design - designed to minimise resource use (materials, energy, water), Safe design - avoids the use of toxic or hazardous materials, and Cyclic design - can be reused or remanufactured; uses recycled materials; materials can be easily recycled. Products must have assessed energy, water, and material efficiency throughout the design cycle, and be designed to minimise negative environmental impacts.