When I was a little boy I used to love making things - pots from the clay soil in our garden, side-tables from the off-cuts of wood in the garage - I enjoyed the combination of creativity and engineering. So when I decided to make a plywood recycling bin I thought ‘what can be hard about that?’. Turns out pretty much everything, but everything was also great fun. These are the 6 steps I went through, some of which I’ll expand upon in future blogs so sign up to the newsletter in the footer to keep in the loop.
Step 1 - Learn
Some time around the turn of the millenium, whilst working as an Environmental Manager for a construction company, I was asked to find out what sustainable development ("the need for the integration of economic development, natural resources management and protection, and social equity and inclusion" as the UN so eloquently puts it ) was all about. As we were talking construction I focused on natural resource, and more specifically:
material usage - the use of sustainable materials (e.g. infinite, non-toxic);
waste management - minimising waste and disposing of that which couldn’t be avoided in an environmentally sound way;
energy efficiency - low embodied energy in the buildings we delivered and minimal consumption when in use (we built homes, schools, hospitals etc).
Step 2 - Do
As I learnt about sustainable development I started to do what I could in my personal life to support it, most notably recycling. Recycling is part of the waste hierarchy, which is a recognised approach to managing waste. The five steps are prioritised as below:
I recycled as much as I could and soon found that I had a bag of cans hanging from the kitchen door, a stack of paper and cardboard on the worktop, and a ring of bottles surrounding the bin.
So I started looking for a bin that would make it easy for me to recycle without making the kitchen a mess or having to take the recycling out several times a day, a bin that had at least 4 compartments, was easy to use and clean, looked great and was itself sustainably made. No joy. Then I went round to some friends for dinner one day and saw they had the same problem.
Step 3 - Invent
When I realised this might be a problem I shared with other people I sketched out some ideas, shared them with a family friend who turned out to be an Industrial Designer (I’d only know Pete 20 years!!) and the next thing I know I’ve got a patent with my name next to “Inventor”! I part funded the application process with £250 I won in a Sheffield Hallam University business plan competition. This is the sketch that I included in my patent application...
Step 4 - Design
Between step 3 and 4 there’s a 10 year gap while I effectively did a full-time vocational MBA. When I was made redundant in October 2015 I saw it as an opportunity to make and sell my invention, or the ‘dwiss’ as it was now called. I worked with a talented international team over the next nine months, through prototyping…
and detailed design development…
and in September 2016 we launched the dwiss at London Design Festival.
The feedback we got was great - people from across the UK, mainland Europe and the US loved the dwiss.
Step 5 - Make
To raise funds for production we ran a crowdfunding campaign in Spring 2017 and, working with a great production partner and team of suppliers, delivered our first dwiss to the US and Luxembourg just before Christmas 2017.
Step 6 - Sell
To bring the dwiss to more people we’re now working with a network of online stores that share our appreciation of quality, sustainable products that are responsibly made by independent craftspeople. There’s just 2 dwiss left from our current production run (as the dwiss is essentially a handmade piece of furniture we make them in small batches) so click here to find out more and order yours, maybe in one of our new colour options. Enjoy.