Designing with harvest residue for better air

39 million tons of rice straw is burned every year, in North India alone. Burning of harvest residue is a major contributor to air pollution and smog in megacities and IKEA is looking for ways to turn this habit around. We talked to Akanksha and Iina about FÖRÄNDRING, an optimistic collection made of a new rice straw-based material.

Health effects due to air pollution are a growing and severe global concern and the situation in North India — where 9 of 10 of the world most polluted cities are situated — is one of the most alarming. One of the major contributors to air pollution and smog in megacities like New Delhi is the burning of rice straw after harvest.

In 2018, IKEA launched the ‘Better Air Now’ initiative with the aim to take action on this global environmental issue by turning rice straws into raw material instead. The first results can be seen in the upcoming collection FÖRÄNDRING.

Growing up in India I have never been able to take clean air for granted, heavy pollution is part of my and many other people’s everyday life. The idea of doing something to improve the situation has given me a lot of energy
Akanksha Deo, one of the IKEA designers behind FÖRÄNDRING
Akanksha Deo, one of the IKEA designers behind FÖRÄNDRING

“Growing up in India I have never been able to take clean air for granted, heavy pollution is part of my and many other people’s everyday life. The idea of doing something to improve the situation has given me a lot of energy,” says Akanksha Deo, designer at IKEA.

Together with Iina Vuorivirta, Akanksha designed a collection made of rice straw based material including lamp shades, mats, table runners, posters and more.

“From a functional point of view the rice straw based material has a lot of potential. I hope that this collection is only the beginning and that we can make use of this material in more ways,” says Akanksha.

The creative starting point and source of inspiration for the designer duo was their own experiences of living in megacities with air pollution being part of their everyday life. It was equally important for them to reflect optimism and the opportunity to make a positive change with this collection. This is also why the collection has been named FÖRÄNDRING, which means change in Swedish. It illustrates the desire to contribute to positive change; changing current habits where rice straw is being burnt as well as a change for the society by contributing to better air.

“With this collection we wanted to make something special and edgy. Our work has been characterized by an optimistic and strong willpower. The collection is in the shades of black and blue. It illustrates the present situation with smog and air pollution, and the hopes for a more optimistic future with crisp and clear blue sky,” says Iina Vuorivirta, IKEA designer.

FÖRÄNDRING will be in IKEA stores 2020, initially in India, Germany, Sweden, Poland and Spain. The long-term ambition is to spread the learnings from the initiative to other parts of India and to use it as an inspiring example for other megacities around the world.

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