When Gareth Neal saw a factory-made version of his original woodland Love Seat, he didn’t like it. Not that there was anything wrong with the way it was made, just that somewhere in the manufacturing process the bench had been smoothed out and lost some of the magic, some of the charm, of the handmade ‘bodged’ version.
But this is only half the picture, as Gareth began thinking of the carbon footprint of the factory Love Seat, and comparing this with the extremely eco-friendly way of working adopted by woodland bodgers. Most furniture is made on a global scale, travelling thousands of miles and leaving behind a massive carbon footprint. So Gareth began to question whether it’s possible to make a piece of furniture that takes out more carbon from the atmosphere than it puts in. He called the project ‘In Pursuit of Carbon Negative’ and set out the following aims :
- To produce a product entirely in the same location as the materials are grown
- To release less carbon in the production of the product than the woodland removes
- To promote the notion of locality and sustainable production through exhibitions and dissemination.
As the title of the project suggests, this is an experiment and the goal of carbon negative may be an unobtainable dream, but the results and data produced thoughout the two week experiment will be recorded. The work will be exhibited during London Design Festival with the aim being not just to sell the objects, but in the hope others will buy into the notion of locality which is at the heart of the project.
'To make something carbon negative is a bit like trying to achieve perpetual motion but it’s intended to be an experiment, a challenge. It’s by going to absurd lengths that you find new information. The project is also about sustaining British woodland and rural manufacture and making sure that objects have a much smaller carbon footprint and a longer life span'
Gareth, accompanied by assistants Xenia and Josh, is cycling 160 miles from London to Moreton Wood in Herefordshire, which is 38 acres of sustainable woodland managed by Paul and Jo Morton. The ash timber Gareth is using was felled earlier in the year. For the whole trip the team are adopting a low-impact, low-carbon way of life. The plan is to construct a table, a set of stools, and a collection of candlesticks. The regime at Moreton Wood is a little less strict than that encountered by Gareth and the Milano Bodgers at Gudrun Leitz's Clissett Wood, as re-chargeable drills are 'allowed' (!) and are used in conjunction with the traditional pole-lathe. However it's all sustainable as the chargers are powered by solar panels. After five days the team will load up the pieces onto a trailer and tow them another 160 miles back to London behind Gareth's bike. Everything used will be recorded so its carbon footprint can be analysed later at the University of Brighton. Gareth: 'I’ll weigh all my food and record each little thing I use, even down to each piece of toilet paper, because it’s a proper piece of research. We’ll be performing a life cycle analysis on it when we get back.'
During London Design Festival (19th - 23rd September 2012) the results will be exhibited at SCP East in Shoreditch, along with the carbon footprint data. If the furniture is a success, it will continue to be produced by Paul and Jo at Moreton Wood.
Gareth will be tweeting throughout the project from @gareth_neal – on a phone charged by solar power. And you can check on progress through this website, as we will be adding photographs day by day, and then publishing the conclusions derived from the data gathered.
At the end of August the team arrived safely back at SCP and Gareth will be chairing a discussion about the project on 21st September at 100%Design. For details click : here