Industrial designer Robin Falck, 28, loves to innovate sustainably and wants to use his work as one means to change the culture of endless buying and throwing away of things. This week he’s sharing with us his honest thoughts about combining sustainability and work, and how he did it with the Nolla cabin.
"One of my dreams is to figure out how I could apply sustainable solutions to all the ways that I use energy, from cooking to heating! A current favourite pastime activity is to try to charge my phone with my new little wind turbine. The components only cost me 12 euro, and I was thrilled when it actually managed to charge my phone. It's basically a small thing that creates electricity from spinning in the wind that I connected to a phone charger. I’m going to try to see if I can get away with putting it on the roof of the building I live in. A curiosity for trying to do things in new and different ways is what excites me to get out of bed on a typical day.
"I love creating things and designing new sustainable solutions is the most exciting thing I know. They say design is not a job, it’s a condition; when I see something as mundane as a chair, I might start thinking of ways to improve it.
Sadly, my profession in general does a lot to hurt the nature. The design of cheap, low quality products use a lot of natural resources. As an industrial designer, I don’t want to contribute to this endless buying and throwing away of things.
I’ve made conscious choices in my career so that I don’t have to compromise on my values. I’m now working 50 % as a freelance industrial designer and 50 % as an art director, which allows me to avoid making any serially produced things and concentrate on making individual quality products. Sometimes the most sustainable thing you can do in your job is being able to say no to unsustainable projects.
The philosophy I live and design by is ’Long lasting, green and recyclable’. I'm grateful that Aalto University had a strong focus on sustainable design during my studies. I think quality is the underpinning value of everything I do, it needs to be of top quality so that it’s great to use and even re-use. One realisation of that is of course the Nolla cabin that I designed in collaboration with Neste.
The Nolla cabin is currently situated on Vallisaari just outside Helsinki but it can be taken apart and moved somewhere else, leaving no trace! It's a small hut that’s built with a zero environmental impact offering maximum nature experience through its large window. It's powered by solar panels and renewable fuels. Things that make it zero impact are for example the material which is wood veneer, a material that binds carbon dioxide. Very little materials were wasted in the building process, because the cabin's measurements were decided so that minimal sawing was needed.
Most importantly it’s an experiment: it explores how we could live on less, whilst spending more time enjoying the nature around us. We’ve gotten so used to being comfortable, and of course some non-essential things are nice to have, but the cabin testifies that there has to be some limit to how comfortable we need to be.
A question I sometimes ask myself is whether things were better earlier in history. Honestly I think things in general are better and easier now, but I still often prefer to create with my hands in an old fashioned way and not just use 3D printers. One of my proudest creations is an Inuit canoe that I made using a 1000 old traditional technique. That type of unique work is very different from society’s typical mass production."
"To me, climate action means making a less selfish choice and thinking about the bigger picture. At the same time, I know sometimes being less selfish is hard. For example, I would love to spend a whole month in the Nolla cabin at some point, but it can be tricky to combine that with the demands of modern working life.
The Nolla cabin has however also made me reflect on how much things and space I need to live. I have started a process of really giving away all the stuff that I don’t really need. So right now I even have empty cupboard space, which made reflect on whether I could actually live in a smaller apartment.
A current climate action I’ve been working on for around 10 years now is cutting down my meat consumption. It’s surprisingly difficult! As an active person, it’s so easy to just get brainwashed into thinking you need the protein from meat. At this point, I’ve managed to cut down almost all red meat and also minimised my my overall meat consumption. Eventually, my goal is to stop eating all other meat than the meat I hunt myself."
"I view the climate friendly life as a lifelong learning process. For me, it started at our cabin in the Finnish archipelago when I was 11 years old. I've always lived in Helsinki, but my childhood summers were never spent in the city. Summer meant lots of fishing for me, and it was usually guaranteed that you’d get a catch in our bay. But that one summer I was suddenly not catching anything and could not understand why. Then my parents explained that it was because the neighbour had cut down all the reed in the bay.
That really made me think: If just a bit of cut reed could impact the whole bay and make all the fish go away, how much do we impact nature on a much larger scale?
My relationship to nature is still very important to me, and when I’m not working I’m likely to be out in the forest. I need to work to be able to spend my free time doing the things I love, so it makes sense to do my work in a way that doesn't damage the nature that I love.
As an adult, I luckily have the tools and the knowledge to do my own part in this world. And even luckier: it’s what I enjoy the most. Trying to plan and design for sustainability never gets boring."
Consumption (pink): My guilty pleasure is definitely buying tools for handicrafting. It feels justified since its my work, but I know it’s still materials that used natural resources to make
Food (yellow): I’m still struggling to become fully vegetarian, my goal is to eat just wild meat that I’ve hunted
Flying (light green): This is the most difficult one, but I’m trying to travel more in the nearby region, taking the train to Lapland is easy enough. I’m also playing with the thought of taking the train to Copenhagen but I have not done that yet.
Transport (dark green): My daily method of transport is cycling! I own a car just for getting out in nature every now and then, and when we do take the car my friends usually join so I rarely drive alone.
Electricity (dark red) and heating (red): I have a green electricity contract of course, and use quite sparingly of electricity. I’m now living on 50m2 myself but I think I could be happy in a smaller place. But I do love this apartment, mainly because it has big windows which means lots of natural light, which reduces my need to keep the lamps on.
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