Botanical pot-pourri

Today we bring you a veritable feast of botanically inspired, environmentally friendly projects and ideas, which may just influence our future lives!
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

We’ve not had one of these for a while, so here’s a veritable smörgåsbord of botanical stories to help you over that summer vacation…

If you want to embrace the fully organic, sustainable lifestyle, what better way to do so than to acquire furniture that’s been grown in a field on a tree? Gavin Munro (co-founder of Full-Grown) is growing trees in the shape of chairs, tables, mirrors, lamps, etc. in a field in England’s Derbyshire Dales. It takes around 6 years to nourish and nurture a chair, for example, which requires great skill and patience by the ‘phytosculpture’ – and a large wallet on the purchaser’s behalf (a chair sells for £2500). However, if you want one, you’ll have to go on the waiting list because the first ‘harvest’ – due in 2016 – is already fully pre-sold(!) But what an initiative, and gives the phrase ‘home-grown’ a whole new meaning.

And on a related furniture/interior decorations theme, why not go one step further and install lamps that double-up as bioreactors? If Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier have their way tomorrow’s living room could house glass vessels that contain growing cultures of Spirulina, a cyanobacterium widely touted as a ‘super-food’ with medical benefits. With their growth fuelled by your own waste heat, CO2 and some light, the bounteous blue-green biomass built-up within these imaginative living illuminations can be periodically siphoned off and used to produce a protein-rich foodstuff. For a preview of these ‘Living Things’, there is a video on-line, and an ‘installation’ in the Mattress Factory at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, USA) until 27th March, 2016. As we’ve so often been told, the future is already here (but apparently only in America…).

Sometimes, though, you might just want to get away from it all. And what more botanically idyllic way to do so than aboard an 18‑m catamaran constructed from jute and flax? But before you baulk at the idea of a repeat of those Thor Heyerdahl-led voyages of the 1940s and 1970s, notably on the Ra vessels built from bundles of papyrus reed, the hull of this 21st century vessel is a composite of ‘reinforced natural fiber jute and linen’, so there are some concessions to ‘modernity’.

Inspired by an earlier 6-month trip to promote principles of self-sufficiency, project manager Corentin De Chatelperron now plans a 3-year voyage – starting in 2016 – aboard ‘Nomad of the Seas’. The project’s aim is to identify and promote practical solutions to the everyday problems of meeting humankind’s basic needs that are simple, inexpensive and environmentally responsible. Since those solutions are neither the province of one country nor of one group of people alone but are to be found wherever humans wrestle with those common, daily problems such as access to clean water, sufficiency of food and fuel to cook it with, a global quest is envisaged. The plan is to use the boat as a moving laboratory-come-film studio to demonstrate and video innovative low-tech solutions from around the world and share them with the global community online. The innovators will be invited to showcase their inventions – such as locals in India who use home-made pressure-cooker-like systems to make diesel fuel from plastic rubbish found at sea(!!) – on board at each of the estimated 50 ports of call. Bon voyage! Et bonne chance!

[Gavin Munro’s work takes Axel Erlandson’s circus trees to a new dimension – Ed.]