Opinion Piece by Chaline Tamrin Church, MA Interior Architect & Designer
Chaline Tamrin Church – MA Interior Architect & Designer
Director, FreeSpace Design (Healthy Interior Architecture), Lecturer & Brand Specialist, Founding Partner of 540 WORLD and Ergotec Health.
Covid has resensitized us. Our heightened sense of other – of the planet – of workers and of failing systems is vital for reversing unhealthy economic, social and material trends.
There are 300 million current cases of COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and 30000 COPD deaths per year in the UK (toxic particles & gases being the main risk factors) and we urbanites spend on average 93% of our time inside buildings, breathing in these toxins, while 91% of the world’s children breathe in this toxic air, every single day. (Visual thinkers – picture me ranting because we know the facts and the solutions, but we are yet to implement them!).
There are safe, sustainable and circular-economy material and economic solutions available now with Cradle to Cradle Certified™ – a unique, holistic framework for water and energy stewardship (pollution/CO2 etc), circularity (re-use), material toxicity (to the parts per million) and social fairness (no slavery/child labour etc). We have to implement safe and circular now and stop talking about the problems. A circular economy strategy must be at the heart of every business, manufacturer, policy maker and educator.
Thanks to Cradle to Cradle Certified, we can introduce non-toxic materials and products to government, architects, designers and developers to future-proof our health and the planet’s. Before Cradle to Cradle Certified products were available, it was a case of choosing the best of modern ‘bad’ built environment products – some release toxic fumes for up to five years in offices and homes, some even longer! Now, we can specify and design with non-toxic, healthy and safe materials. This should be as important as the structural safety of buildings. Health should never be compromised. Material choices should always be safe and positive for people and planet, just like structural built environment choices. We don’t cut corners on choosing structural supports to save a few pounds, building health should be the same, protected, at policy level.
I believe the tide has turned and more decision-makers are aware of the possible, of safe (non-toxic) materials through Cradle to Cradle Certified products – partly through our showcase collaborative stand at Futurebuild 2020 with FreeSpace Design, 540 WORLD and Cradle to Cradle Certified UK companies. At Futurebuild, we saw, by sheer numbers that Cradle to Cradle’s truly innovative, authentically sustainable, safe and circular products were the number one interest for visitors with almost 1500 requests for information.
The linear economy of take-make-waste must not be resurrected when we all go back to business as usual. We need to stay safe (all the time) when we are at home and when we are back at work. Materially, it is possible. Cradle to Cradle® is like a two-decade-old, proven vaccine for planetary health regarding manufacturing and economic strategy. Safe, sustainable and circular is possible and profitable, but we need to action the change from linear to healthy and circular today because the time for musing was several centuries ago. “If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present” (Catherine Booth, 1800)