A quest for the sustainable

Setting out to make a sustainable icon, the lighting team at IKEA of Sweden turned every stone to find the perfect material. The result of this quest will be the upcoming handmade lamp family, KNIXHULT.

“The planets resources are limited, and we need to start using them more wisely. For me, designing for circularity is about being able to look your children in the eyes in the future and saying that you did something to ensure that there is a world left,” says product developer Anna Granath.

Making more sustainable products is a complex matter when different aspects have to be weighed into the equation. KNIXHULT is an endeavour by Anna Granath and her team, including designer Emma Olbers, to make a more sustainable lighting range using natural fibres.

Anna Granath, Product developer for KNIXHULT.
Anna Granath, Product developer for KNIXHULT.
First sketches of KNIXHULT.
First sketches of KNIXHULT.

The fact that the new lamp family will be handmade is another conscious choice to make KNIXHULT more sustainable. Studies made by IKEA show that emotional connections to objects tend to make us take better care of them and keep them longer.

“If we make something super sustainable that people throw away after a year, we have failed,” says Anna Granath. She explains by drawing a parallel to people’s relationships with inherited furniture.

“You are much less likely to throw away your grandma’s old item. Instead, you take care of it and refurbish it to make it last longer. This is because you have an emotional bond to it. We have found that it’s easier to create that bond also with handmade items. You respect them more because somebody has taken time to make them, and not a machine. So, handmade is something that contributes to sustainability.”

Anna Granath and Emma Olbers discussing materials.
Anna Granath and Emma Olbers discussing materials.
Emma Olbers, designer for KNIXHULT.
Emma Olbers, designer for KNIXHULT.

There are however many more factors that affects how sustainable a product becomes in the end. Already at this early stage, the team is thinking about how different materials in the lamps can be easily separated when it’s time to recycle. Anna Granath hopes to inspire a paradigm shift in the industry.

“We need to start viewing all materials as limited resources and question what is today seen as waste.”

But she and Emma Olbers doesn’t stop at this, they are on a quest to improve the entire bamboo supply chain by drastically reducing the production waste.

“It has been common practice to only use the lightest coloured material of the bamboo and bleach it using hydrogen peroxide and sun exposure. We will travel to Vietnam to explore the bamboo supply chain and see what can be done to make the products more sustainable,” says Emma Olbers.

KNIXHULT is set to launch in 2019.

Did you know…

That bamboo produces around double the volume of oxygen compared to most wood species.

Bamboo grows very fast. Depending on the species, it grows between 80 and 150 cm a month.

That looking at the carbon footprint of a produced product at IKEA, the transportation from manufacturers to the stores is a very small part. In most cases, somewhere around 4%.

That the choice of material has the biggest impact on the carbon footprint of a product, at IKEA it is accounting for around 40%.