The seventh floor of MAD was transformed into a showroom with a kitchen assembled onsite. Resembling any other modern kitchen at first glance, the technology and energy saving capabilities of LG’s Studio appliances and Grohe’s blue faucet added elements of sustainable design. Little things like blue LED lighting on stovetop knobs that alert you when a burner is turned on go a long way in a household with children, while the dishwasher offers energy saving attributes (it cleans at a reduced temperature and in a shorter amount of time, all while using less water).
"To be honest, when Tom [Santer] started talking to me about the faucet I was barely listening—I was placating him," says environmental lifestyle guru and designer Danny Seo, "but then when I heard him say that the tap produces still and sparkling water I was sold! The technology is amazing. The real issue is getting the consumer to listen." Seo sells his eco-friendly products in 4000 stores nationally, targeting the mass consumer. "What I’ve realized from interacting with the consumer is, What is the added benefit for choosing green? And if a shopper spends a minute and a half deciding whether to buy an item, how do you convey your message in that time?"
That’s where interior designers come in, argues celebrity designer Thom Filicia. "Consumers are much more thoughtful these days," he said, "from the light bulbs they buy, to the cars they drive, to the food they put in their bodies. My clients want to know if the springs in their sofa are recycled and if the wood is reclaimed. If a client asked these questions ten years ago, we’d go, Oh this person is going to be difficult! Now we think it’s weird if they don’t." The greatest resource a consumer can have is an educated interior designer or architect who can help guide them with the newest products and technologies on the market. Filicia, who just built an eco-friendly house in upstate New York, says it is painstaking but can be done without breaking the budget.
Jacqueline Hosford, the new president of the NY Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, agrees. Unlike Filicia’s celebrity client base, Hosford teams with everyday clients. She feels designers are stewards of information and that it is their duty to pass it on, even if it isn’t embraced immediately. "I explain to my clients that they could buy a $300 product from China, or they could spend $1500 on something locally made that will last them 20 years. They may still buy the product from China, but you've educated them and that trickles down."
Actor Adrian Grenier has been a longtime advocate for environmental charities, which led him to his newest endeavor, SHFT.com. Grenier—who built an eco-friendly house in Brooklyn—says at the time, finding a contractor who understood sustainability or solar panels was very challenging. A sign of things changing: "Now my contractor markets himself as a green contractor," he says. Grenier, whose newest charity involves bringing nutrition and food education into schools, believes that things like solar panels, radiant heat, and gardening are all things that can be done even in an urban setting.
The evening wrapped with a question from SHFT.com co-founder and producer Peter Glatzer on how we all can embrace sustainable practices during the upcoming holiday season. Tom Santer, whose Grohe faucet replaces the need for both still and sparkling bottled water, explained that he likes to take the time around the dinner table to share water information with his kids, like the fact that only one third of water bottles are recycled. "I happen to have them on hand," he admitted. The rest of us might have to brush up, but that's not a bad idea.
Alexandra Polier has been a communications consultant for artists, architects, designers, fabricators and philanthropists from New York to Nairobi. A writer by training, a networker by nature, she enjoys communicating the way design shapes every aspect of our lives.