Sustainability in design education has been a primary concern of Parsons for many years, and just last week president David Van Zandt proposed a much larger climate action plan for The New School. The New School is known for its renowned Environmental Studies Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Science degrees, taught at the Tishman Environment & Design Center. While these programs are already making great leads in environmental education, the Climate Action plan highlights that, “Students throughout the university will have opportunities to engage in project-based learning and multidisciplinary classes that investigate and access the impact of their carbon footprint and challenge students to promote sustainable living in innovative ways” (David Van Zandt).
It’s no secret that environmental efficiency is prominent challenge in the professional design world, so by preparing it’s students to ask the right questions, design sustainably, and considerately, The New School is founding a sustainably equipped generation of designers. A environmentally concerned design education provokes us to question where our resources come from? How did they get there? And really how big an environmental impact have we had throughout the entire design process? Although the city is really working to take an environmental stance, it is still often difficult to find materials & resources that support the environmentally friendly mission.
As a senior BFA student, I’ve been working with sustainability for the last four years and complied a list of resources that support environmental production practices. The following are companies that support sustainable design practices & additionally are student friendly:
Material ConneXion is a global materials resource center located in NYC. This location opens up its library resource to Parsons students to investigate new, innovative materials being produced globally by offering local access to physical samples. They give students the opportunity via their in house and online database to connect with the material suppliers, negotiate sample purchases, etc. Upon visiting the material library myself, I found the way it was organized very efficient in itself. The library is separated by processes, naturals, ceramics, metals, polymers, etc. Although not all of the resources are developed with sustainability in mind, many are developed 100% sustainably. Material ConneXion as a resource is really beneficial to all design departments at Parsons from Interior Design, Architecture, Fashion Design, Product Design, etc.
Additionally, Parsons has it’s own materials library on a smaller scale available in the fine arts building at 25 East 13th Street on the 3rd Floor, available to all students.
Organic Cotton Plus, although not located in NYC, is based out of near by Connecticut. Perhaps one of the most local certified organic textile suppliers in the north east, their comprehensive website features a wide variety of materials (everything from muslin’s to silks), sold by the yard. Having done extensive research into purchasing organic textiles locally, it’s nearly impossible to find companies that will sell in small sample quantities as most are looking to meet high production minimums. Meanwhile, organic cotton plus offers swatching of almost all of their fabrics prior to purchasing final quantities. Not only do they supply both organic woven fabrics and knits, they also offer notions and supplies. Although they offer organic fabrics from all over the world, they have a large portion that are certified Made in the USA as well. Having worked with this company myself, I can attest to the fact that they are very student friendly, and their shipping turn around is very reliable. They are a great resource for Fashion Design, Product Design, and Interior Design Majors.
BIGnyc, When it comes to building materials, there are exciting venues for recycled and surplus supply centers around New York. Build it Green NYC also known as BIGnyc, salvages leftover and unused construction materials and re-sells them at a highly reduced rate. With locations in Gowanus, Brooklyn and Astoria, Queens you can visit their online site and have a preview of their inventory. Their shop includes everything from lumber, to hardware, and other building materials all at highly reduced rates. This resource is perfect for any student in the First Year Program looking to build 3D sculptures or get experimental with their materials at an inexpensive price.
Parsons also has it’s own material renewal center called the “Green Supply Center” in the 2 West 13th street building on the 4th floor. Here students can drop off unused materials, or unwanted supplies. This works on a free exchange system, where students can leave and take whatever supplies they want.
As Parsons and The New School move towards a more sustainable future, we as students are constantly looking for collaborators and co-workers interested in expanding the environmental movement. This is just a sampling of local sustainable material suppliers, if you have any additional recommendations please leave comments below.