As we progress further into a digitally dominated world it’s important to consider how can we leverage technology to enable more sustainable behaviours towards our possessions.
How can individuals take a more circular approach to their furniture? And how can brands and furniture producers nudge people towards these behaviours?
Carbon Banks is born from the idea that we take better care of things we feel a strong sense of stewardship or responsibility towards.
It is a speculative concept that explores the potential of connecting a physical item in this case, a wooden chair with an interactive digital tree that grows more abundant in response to the care we give our physical furniture.
The idea is that digital tools can incentivise more people to keep, repair, trade, and recycle furniture by creating an emotional bond with physical objects something that is increasingly important in the age of fast homeware, and its consequences for the environment.
According to the European Federation of Furniture Manufacturers, up to 90% of furniture waste in the EU is incinerated or sent to landfill. Yet an item of wooden furniture can double as a carbon store for decades, if not longer if cared for and recycled correctly.
If we wish to usher in a more circular economy, we need to encourage people to keep, trade, repair and recycle their furniture.
But responsibility also lies with manufacturers to create end-to-end systems and make better material and design choices for their customers and to examine how technologies and communications can inspire positive behaviours.
Can linking the possessions in our homes with those in our increasingly mixed realities provide us with opportunities to relate differently to our material world?’
Carbon Banks examines how a physical wooden chair could be digitised using emerging technologies to help encourage and communicate the benefits of long-term care for the things we own.
These emerging technologies include blockchain, which allows people to register their ownership and trace a chain of custody for an item, and digital assets that embody and represent the item virtually.
Each piece of Carbon Banks furniture is made primarily from wood with minimal additional materials. This ensures the furniture’s longevity and eases the recycling process.
On its surface is a unique pattern, either printed or engraved into its wooden surface, which acts as a visual identifier — a key that binds a generative digital asset to the physical object.
Once a person has a chair in their possession, they can scan its unique pattern with their phone, which will authenticate their ownership and unlock the digital asset.
This takes form and roots as a virtual seedling. Much like the virtual pets of the 1990s, the care given to the item of furniture is mirrored by the seedling, which grows over time into an ever-evolving tree.
With an ambition to extend the lifespan of the furniture, this virtual tree helps people to recognise that the longer we keep an item of furniture in circulation, the longer it stores and prevents carbon from entering Earth’s atmosphere.