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The cardboard revolution

rest in pets cardboard coffinsTurns out the most cutting-edge material in your home might be hiding in your recycling bin.

When I was little, my mum and I went dumpster diving behind a few local appliance stores for giant bits of cardboard. “Are you sure we’re allowed to take these?” I kept asking as we stuffed our loot into the back of the car. Back home, we transformed the former fridge and washing machine boxes into a play house for my youngest brother.

Now real homes made of cardboard aren’t so far away – as forward-thinking designers and entrepreneurs increasingly turn to cardboard as their material of choice. We may associate cardboard just with sending parcels or storing documents, but cardboard has many winning qualities. It’s cheap and strong, and unlike plastic, it’s both renewable (you simply have to grow more trees) and biodegradable (it breaks down under easy-to-create conditions).

Some smart Israeli guys from a company called Cardboard Technologies have prototyped a cardboard bicycle – it costs about $15 to produce. What makes the cardboard strong enough to carry a human being is its ‘origami-style’ folding, compressing layers of cardboard together.

It’s then treated to make it waterproof, so it doesn’t go soggy in the rain (unlike my brother’s play house). The people from Cardboard Technologies say they’ve also got plans for wheelchairs, prams and supermarket trolleys.

Across the globe, furniture designers are playing around with cardboard to create stylish cardboard chairs, sofas, bookshelves, bed frames and lamps. And beyond home decor, there are cardboard memory sticks, disposable cameras, iPod speakers, a bridge over a French river, a whole load of pop-up shops – and, yes, even concept homes constructed entirely from cardboard. The future is here – and we can stick it in the recycling when we’re done.

Cradle to grave

When Fido or Misty pass on, how do you lovingly send them on their way? Aucklanders Jane and Mat Bogust have created Rest in Pets, a range of biodegradable cardboard coffins for farewelling your four-legged friend with dignity. No more burial-by-shoebox or flushing down the loo. And as Jane and Mat say, Rest in Pets provides a great opportunity to start those tough conversations about death with your kids. Read more at idealog.co.nz/go/cardboard and www.restinpets.com


When printing double-sided isn’t possible, save sheets of paper that have been printed on one side to use as notepaper for scribbles, lists or doodles.

For extra points, staple or bind together sheets to create a notebook, or organise a service such as Lovenotes (see also idealog.co.nz/go/lovenotes) to collect your one-sided paper and transform it into new stationery. 

Vincent won many awards as a journalist with Metro magazine and The Independent Business Weekly and was twice named Editor of the Year by the Magazine Publishers’ Association for his role in founding Unlimited magazine. In 2004 he co-founded HB Media, which was later to become Tangible Media, and is a publisher at AUT Media, the publishing division of AUT University.

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