Denmark: A Worldwide Leader in Sustainable Living Practices
Although New York City is my home and there is no place I would rather be, I am proud of the sustainable living practices that come out of my home country. Denmark has a long history of using design to improve solutions and society. Sustainability and environmental responsibility are a priority for an increasing number of Danish designers, making Denmark the epicenter of the growing trend in sustainable design. Here are some designers who work to create aesthetically pleasing, high-end, and sustainable pieces:
Troels Grum-Schwensen established Grum Design in 1989, three years after graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where he studied space and furniture design. His design philosophy comes from a respect for the environment and sustainable design, a firm belief in designs that demonstrate variety and innovation, and a recognition that furniture is part of architecture and should serve spaces as well as the humans that occupy them. A design that is particularly indicative of this ethos is the GRIP table – a flexible and elegant table design which is quick to assemble, easily stacked and can also be lengthened. GRIP went on to win the prestigious Danish Design Award in 2012. Grum-Schwensen also designed an adjustable high-chair that can accommodate children up to age 10, made from eco-friendly materials and eliminating the need to buy multiple high-chairs for one child as they grow.
Julia was a founding partner with BBG-BBGM until the firm joined HOK in 2013. Under her leadership, BBG-BBGM developed into one of the world’s leading hospitality design firms and established the first LEED-certified office space in the Empire State Building for their New York headquarters. HOK’s mission is to deliver exceptional design ideas through the creative blending of human need, environmental stewardship, value creation, science and art. HOK has designed 181 LEED-certified buildings and has adopted an initiative to seek carbon neutrality in all new buildings, developments and major renovations by 2030.
You’ve likely heard of Bjarke Ingels for his work on 57 West and 2 World Trade Center. He has become one of the world’s top young architects in recent years. After attending the Danish Academy for Architecture, he founded his own studio, BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group). BIG has won competitions all over the world and Bjarke Ingels´ list of awards is rapidly expanding. He has developed a reputation for designing buildings that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious. Among his most famous projects are ‘8-tallet’, a progressive apartment complex with two greenroofs totaling over 18,000 square feet, and ‘The Mountain’, which collects rainwater and recycles it to irrigate the terrace gardens. ‘The Mountain’ has received numerous awards including the World Architecture Festival Housing Award.
Henrik Thygesen and Sebastian Jørgensen
Thygesen and Jørgensen established We Do Wood in 2006. We Do Wood has chosen to design furniture in the material moso bamboo, because it is the only woody plant that can keep up with the rate of human consumption and deforestation. Their bamboo is grown without any chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. The bamboo processing is done without the use of harmful chemicals and all adhesives used during processing and production have the lowest formaldehyde emissions in the industry, exceeding the strict European E1 standard for indoor air quality. Finally, the furniture is flat-packed, which minimizes the use of packaging material, decreases shipping volume, and reduces the carbon footprint of their products.
CEO – Mater
After graduating from business school in Copenhagen and holding leading positions within companies like DIAGEO and Kraft Foods, Marstrand established Mater in 2006. He wanted to launch a brand that combined beautiful design with an ethical business strategy. Mater commissions collections that support people, local craft traditions, and the environment. Mater was the winner of Best Debut Design Brand by Wallpaper* Magazine in 2008, and is a member of United Nations Global Compact, an initiative that encourages businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation.
Mette Lange graduated from the School of Architecture at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1990 and established her own office in 2002. Her architecture builds on principles for sustainability and social responsibility, hence local materials and solutions for minimizing energy use take priority in her projects. In 2014, she completed a large pine-clad home that uses low-cost geothermal energy to stay warm during Denmark’s harsh winters, which was profiled in Inhabitat.
Harsløf started the Danish jewelry company Kinraden, which is establishing itself as one of the most sustainable brands in the world. Harsløf uses reclaimed precious metals whenever possible, which are derived from recycled jewelry or industrial materials. Instead of actual diamonds, she uses beautiful black diamond-cut Mpingo heartwood from a single Forest Stewardship Council-certified wild area in Tanzania, governed by the World Wildlife Fund, FSC, and other NGO programs. Every piece is hand assembled by goldsmiths in Denmark, Germany and Thailand under fair working conditions.