Inside An Initiative Aiming To Shape The Future Of Regenerative Design In India

The brand is not merely using the discourse of sustainability or regenerative practices as a marketing gimmick; it walks the talk.
The brand is not merely using the discourse of sustainability or regenerative practices as a marketing gimmick; it walks the talk.Orange Tree

"No matter what you do it will never amount to anything but a single drop in a limitless ocean. But what is an ocean if not a multitude of drops.”

David Mitchell

I have often turned to this quote to drive home the importance of collective action. And at this present moment, what is the most crucial need of the hour that demands collective action? Coming together to save our planet, of course. There are a thousand divisive factors to account for when we consider the diversity of the world population. We have cultural differences, different dialects, complexion, customs, and the list goes on. But we are all united by an imminent danger — the destruction of the planet that is the only home known to all of us. And that’s where our collective battle begins.

If we don’t start now, it’ll be too late as the Doomsday clock is not shy of striking twelve in the not-so-distant future. We are already bearing the brunt of climate change, which is an effect of thousands of years of ecological damage caused by our forefathers. And if we don’t work on reversing these damages, future generations won’t even have a planet they can call home. You or I cannot halve the world’s carbon footprint overnight. But we start with the small actions that can be as simple as not littering the streets or remembering to turn off the lights at home when they are not being used. These are the first steps that lead to a more sustainable life.

The brand is not merely using the discourse of sustainability or regenerative practices as a marketing gimmick; it walks the talk.
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This has been my worldview for quite some time. However, it altered when I was introduced to the promising facets of regenerative design during my recent visit to the magnificent city of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Sustainability is based on the principle of taking conscious actions that contribute to minimizing the adverse effects on the environment. However with the current state of the planet, where a devastating existential threat is looming large, merely endorsing sustainable designs does not quite cut it for the long-term sustenance of the planet. It is not enough for something to just to have zero adverse effects on the planet. Now the need of the hour is to create thoughtful designs that contribute positively to the planet’s future. That’s where regenerative design steps in. It involves making designs that repair, renew, replenish and nurture our ecosystem. Sustainable designs are the stepping stone to creating regenerative designs.

I learned about the untapped potential of regenerative designs when I attended an event called Regenerative Design Thinking, hosted by the premier homegrown sustainable furniture brand Orange Tree at their Jodhpur showroom, nestled within their expansive factory. The event saw a congregation of bright and aware minds who strongly believe in the potential of regenerative designs as the most viable eco-conscious approach. The gathering included architects, designers, academics, and entrepreneurs, along with the students and HODs of educational institutes such as NIFT Jodhpur FDDI, IIT Jodhpur Jiet, IICD, MICA Japiur, INIFD and a few more. This eclectic and diverse group of people came together with pluralistic perspectives but a single unifying mission: to spark discourse on how creativity is at the heart of making the ecological changes that our planet needs.

The event began with the students taking a guided tour through the expansive Orange Trees showroom where the brand's various unique furniture collections were displayed. Aesthetically, the designs incorporate a global taste, but the sustainable materials they use in making the furniture such as cane, recycled wood and plastic, natural fibers, bamboo and wicker set them apart. Getting a first-hand experience of what the final product of regenerative furniture design looks like was inspirational for the students and me, as well. This was succeeded by the announcement of the Regenerative Design Program called Raw Foundry. Raw Foundry is the brainchild of the Raw Collaborative community, an initiative spearheaded by three women entrepreneurs who are harnessing design's creative forces using an eco-conscious approach.

Orange Tree
Orange Tree

"Raw Foundry acts as an incubation platform for recent graduates and final-year design students. The Foundry acts as a platform to shape the raw talent and give it an initial direction. At the annual show, Raw Collaborative will present works designed by the students under Raw Foundry".

Raw Collective

The most appealing feature of Raw Foundry is how the initiative recognizes that the younger generation will be the custodians of Planet Earth and ultimately shape its future. With the collaborative efforts and resources of Orange Tree and Raw Collaborative, the selected design students will be able to execute their ideas not just on paper but in a tangible form. The parameters for the Raw Foundry encompass originality and innovation, material exploration, sustainability perspective, and cost-effectiveness of the design and development process. There will be a shortlist of 10 works (fully developed products by the students) from a diverse range of design disciplines, styles, techniques, and concepts, fostering a culture of responsible design, creativity, experimentation, and collaboration. The shortlisted entries will get a chance to showcase their works at the Raw Collaborative Annual Show 2024 and collaborate with Orange Tree. The program is not just limited to the students who visited the event in person but is open to all. The submission must include a minimum of two Lifestyle Products that include furniture, accessories, textiles, lighting, and visual arts.

This was followed by an intriguing panel discussion where the students interacted with experts comprising Prof. G.H.S Prasad (Director of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Jodhpur), Dr. Mini Mathur (Associate Professor, MICA), Ms. Varsha Monica Samuel ( HOD, FDDI- Jodhpur), Harsh Vardhan (Principal Studio Lotus) and Mr Vatsal Agrawal (Associate Dean at The Design Village). The panelists shared with the attendees the theoretical frameworks of regenerative design, its real-life application in the fields of design, architecture, fashion, and retail, along with its socio-economic connotations. Subsequently, there was a presentation showcasing how Delhi-based architectural design firm Studio Lotus has been incorporating regenerative design in India and abroad.

Orange Tree

Orange Tree Home’s showroom/furniture gallery is a spacious space but it is nothing compared to their factory, which is housed in the same perimeter. Covering an area of 9,35,000 sq km., it resembles a self-sustaining miniature city. The regenerative Design Thinking continued with all the attendees taking a guided tour through the factory. Stepping inside the various departments inside the factory, I realized that the brand is not merely using the discourse of sustainability or regenerative practices as a marketing gimmick; it walks the talk. The factory runs on solar energy, they reuse fabric waste, convert sewage water through proper treatment, and the most remarkable of them all is how they use sawdust to make fertilizers, which are in turn, used to grow trees all over the premises. The factory also boasts state-of-the-art technology and conveyor belt systems to reduce the labour-intensive work of manufacturing. It's a common phenomenon that in several restaurants, the decor and everything is prim and proper but it is only when you visit its kitchen that you get a truer overall picture. Visit the factory was like visiting the kitchen, the place where all the magic happens, and it thoroughly complements the ethos of everything the Regenerative Design Thinking event advocated.

Orange Tree

Click here to apply for Raw Foundry.

Follow Orange Tree here.

Find out more about Raw Collaborative here.