Blog : Eco design

A prickly business

A prickly business

Ananas Anam and its ‘natural leather alternative’ Piñatex® are the brainchild and vision of ‘ethical entrepreneur’ Dr Carmen Hijosa. Concerned by the toxic impact of mass-produced leather and polluting synthetic textiles seen by Dr Carmen Hijosa during her time in the Philippines advising on the leather industry, Carmen set out on a mission to find an alternative process and product. Piñatex® – a plant-based, non-woven textile made from pineapple leaf fibre – is the result of seven years of development. It continues to evolve and develop, along with the company that produces and manufactures the textile, Ananas Anam.

For those of you who receive our monthly newsletter, you will know that Ariel and I stumbled across Piñatex® at the Grand Designs Exhibition in London earlier this year. The textile was showcased as one of Keven McCloud’s ‘Green Heroes’ – and we can completely understand why.

Piñatex® is made from what is thought of – or was formerly thought of – as a waste product of pineapple agriculture – the leaf. Farmers, therefore, benefit from a new income stream without any additional costs. There is no need for additional water, land, fertiliser, etc. Pineapple fibres are used in traditional Filipino woven garments – and this local tradition is what helped to inspire Carmen, and her vision. A lot can be learnt from the local communities – from those who have lived in harmony with and adapted to their surroundings for years and generations.

Design is not just about product.
Design is about responsibility.’ – Dr. Carmen Hijosa

This quote from the Ananas Anam CEO captures the ethos behind Piñatex®. Social and environmental responsibility is at the heart of Dr Carmen Hijosa’s vision; a vision for a more sustainable future. The company’s guiding principles centre around a high social impact with a low environmental one.

And it’s not just about sustainability. It’s also about innovation – of thinking outside the box to come up with solutions for processes, practices and behaviours that have become the status quo. It’s about sustainability through innovation.

A business or a cause?

Significantly, Piñatex® is commercially viable and at the same time supports pineapple farming communities in the Philippines. Profits and a purpose. Helpfully, in the press pack sent to us by Ananas Anam, they define social enterprise as ‘an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvement in human and environmental well-being – including social impact.’ We are no longer in a world where there are two sides of the fence, profit (i.e. business) and nonprofit – perhaps we are starting to sit together on that fence. These two worlds seem to be coming closer together.

Piñatex® is being used in a variety of ways – finding its way into our everyday life. It’s being used by a number of designers including for footwear, other fashion items, furniture as well as automobile interiors. We see this as the future. You don’t have to reject a certain lifestyle in its entirety to want to or be able to make a difference, to have a social impact. It’s something we can all be a part of, day to day.

Let’s hope that more of us and more businesses follow Dr Carmen Hijosa’s lead. Carmen we salute you. Pineapples will never be the same again!

In next week’s Wednesday blog I speak to founder of CorkYogis, Lara Sengupta, and find out what she has been up to since Dragons’ Den (see our last blog post, ‘In the pursuit of profit or social purpose‘) and what the future holds for yogis of the cork kind…

Until next time #liveslow, #livesustainably

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How does your garden grow?

How does your garden grow?

The humble pineapple. Well…actually, the pineapple is probably one of the least humble fruits out there! It has quite a regal ‘flare’, perched there atop its leafy coronet. I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until a trip to Panama last year that I found out how a pineapple grows. Can you believe that? When I saw it, I was amazed – much to the astonishment of Ariel who – growing up – saw pineapples in their natural environment on a daily basis.

In the last few blogs we’ve been writing about inspiration and looking at who inspires us. Rather than who, the question now is what inspires us?

The answer to this is simple…nature.

Inspired by nature

The bíku project is inspired by nature, through and through. From the treehouse designs to how the retreat will function as whole. It will be off grid – running on solar power and using water catchment systems. In addition, we will grow the majority of the food for the guest restaurant.

We have already been on an amazing journey with bíku, and we’re only just beginning. The project is giving us a new way of looking at and working with – and within – the world. It’s really only through an understanding of how the world – and nature – around us works that we can build anything within it – such as bíku! And the only true way to understand how the world around us works, is to notice it!!! To stop, take a breath from the craziness of modern-day living and take in your surroundings – the nature, the landscape. And this is part of our ‘living slow’ philosophy (or philoslothy!!). Read our recent blog on being philoslothical.

Once your take a closer look, you see that nature is much more than a random collection of pretty cool things. It is a fascinating, intricate, interconnected process. We want to draw from the naturally occurring systems and patterns that exist in nature, specifically in Bocas del Toro, and see which of them we can apply to the bíku retreat design.

While we may look, we don’t always see! I have looked at you in the supermarket many a time Mr Pineapple, but it was only when I got to Bocas del Toro that I saw you. Haha.

Until next time. #liveslow

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What makes a treehouse a treehouse?

What makes a treehouse a treehouse?

Our quest to create unique and magical treehouses for our b í k u retreat has led us to ask the question, ‘What makes a treehouse a treehouse?’ Before we began our journey, we didn’t think there was much debate around what constitutes a treehouse – but, along the way we have found treehouses of all shapes and sizes, including some that are not even built in trees! We were shocked too!

For us, there are three essentials of a treehouse, as well some added bonuses which make a treehouse stay truly unbeatable. At b í k u – we’re aiming for the fundamentals as well as that icing on the cake!

Essentials of a treehouse

A treehouse must be:

  1. Off the ground
  2. In a tree (number 2 normally helps with number 1!)
  3. Magical!

Added bonuses for treetop living

For an amazing treetop stay, your treehouse should have:

  1. A unique design
  2. A swing bridge (of course – and perhaps a spiral staircase)
  3. An amazing view

When is a treehouse not a treehouse?

Most common definitions of a treehouse mention a structure that is built in a tree. The Treehouse Guide further defines a treehouse as, ‘A structure built in or around a tree which interacts with, and relies upon, the tree for its support. A treehouse consists of a roofed platform defining a sheltered space which may be fully enclosed for protection from the elements’.

I love the question that the Guide then asks, ‘Is it acceptable to use ground supports for a treehouse?’ And the answer is, it depends! This is clearly a hot topic of debate within the treehouse community.

The Guide also sets out three scenarios when a structure is not a treehouse, including when the house is fully ground supported and when the tree support is not structurally critical.

We have to say that on our journey, we’ve come across a large number of places misdefined as treehouses. And, it can be hugely disappointing when you’re looking forward to all the magic, nostalgia and quirkiness of a treehouse stay and, instead, find yourself in a building on stilts. Don’t get us wrong, there are some truly amazing and unique retreats and structures built in tree canopies that are magical – which we would love to stay at. But, please, just don’t call them a treehouse.

Living-room treehouses

living-room, in Powys, Wales, does everything you’d expect and want from a treehouse, and more! Phenomenally designed, the treehouses almost disappear into the woodland. Nature and sustainability have been taken deeply into consideration. The treehouses are a piece of hobbit-like magic in a hidden valley that take you away from the daily grind to chance encounters with fairy tale creatures and …. Welsh sheep! It’s a beautiful place to be.

Photos from our visit to living-room, back in 2015.

 

 

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