Italian sofas are nice, but not so eco-friendly when you consider how far they have to travel to get to us. As Earth Day approaches, Danny Sinopoli surveys the wealth of chic and sustainable homegrown alternatives in Canada’s three largest cities
By now, everyone and his nutritionist has heard of the 100-mile diet, the phenomenon started in 2005 by an eco-conscious Vancouver couple who decided to eat and drink only what could be grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their home.
But what about the like-minded movement in the world of home decor?
These days, a great bulk of our home furnishings are manufactured abroad, travel great distances to get to us and eat up a lot of resources in the process. So just as we shop at farmers markets and wear locally made T-shirts, a growing number of us are looking in our own neighbourhoods for sustainable yet chic alternatives.
And contrary to popular belief, it’s not all recycled-record vases and too-clever-by-half craft kitsch.
Get set for 100-mile decorating.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the cost to the planet of transporting heavy things from a factory in the Far East or Europe to their North American homes,” says Graeme Spicer, director of retail strategy at DW + Partners Inc., a retail branding and design consultancy in Toronto.
“They also have more confidence that their purchases are being created in an environmentally friendly or at least environmentally neutral manner if they’re made locally instead of in, say, China, which has a shaky environmental record at best.”
As it happens, many of this country’s design firms were sourcing their materials and producing their products close to home long before Canadians started measuring their carbon footprints.
British Columbia’s Brent Comber, for instance, has been crafting his rugged wood furniture out of fallen or reclaimed Vancouver-area timber since 1994, while Toronto-based Centrifuge Design’s policy of working with suppliers and fabricators in the city and its environs is as old as the firm itself.
“Even when we started back in 2000, we were thinking about sourcing locally and keeping to a made-in-Canada strategy,” says Centrifuge designer Stephen Hugo-Seinader, whose products range from pepper mills to mailboxes.
A clear indication that the public has finally caught up with Canadian designers on this issue is the emergence of retailers – such as Made in Toronto and M in Vancouver – devoted to homegrown products.