This is the continuation of a discussion on the potential of restorative business between David Stover, CEO and co-founder of Bureo skateboard company, and Bill Browning, expert in biophilic design and partner and co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green. Lindsay James, vice-president of restorative enterprise for Interface, moderated the discussion.
Lindsay James (Q): Do you think that there is potential for a restorative approach as more and more businesses embrace this idea and begin generating restorative technologies? Will those become leap-frog technologies that will allow our society to avert some of the pending crisis?
Bill Browning (A): I am going to go back to the social on that because I think it’s the mindset. When you have folks who are doing the work that David and his team are doing, it inspires other people to start thinking about different ways of doing things. When Ray first had his epiphany to go this route, a lot of folks doubted his proposal, but over time it became part of the culture. It inspired a lot of knockoffs—a lot of other companies looking at Interface and trying to do the same things. In some ways I think the technologies come along after that—after this inspiration and new way of thinking about the world.
David Stover (A): We founded one solution but we’re not in this alone. We look to other partners and other people doing great things around the world like Interface. We’re enticing people to do this on a broader basis. Bill’s point is that Interface is using its project to inspire others. Because we make skateboards, we get to touch a younger generation, which is really great.
Last year, we visited around 55 schools, telling kids our story. The younger generation is pretty inspiring. Last week I visited The Island School, which is a school set up in the Bahamas for people interested in ocean research. These are high school students from 15 to 18 years old. We watched a presentation about three 16 year-olds who were catching fish in the Bahamas, studying all the toxins in them and looking at their impacts on our environment. It made me realize that I became aware of environmental issues later in life. Through early awareness the next generation has a jumpstart on finding viable solutions.
Lindsay James (Q): What role should beauty play in designing our desired future?
Bill Browning (A): Everything. (laughs) If it’s not beautiful, we’re not going to take care of it. If it’s not beautifully designed, it’s not going to last. One example of biophilic design that we use quite a bit is the Great Workroom at Johnson Wax by Frank Lloyd Wright. A lot of times we’ll show a picture of that space and ask the audience how old they think the space is. It’s a contemporary picture that we took a couple of years ago. No one in the room guesses that it was designed between 1936 and 1939 and that it’s still used in the original configuration. We’ve talked to people who work in that space. Some of them are the grandchildren of the people who worked in the space originally. They love being there. It’s inspiring. It’s gorgeous. And it’s a productive space. Now think about that – an office design that is so good that it lasts that long.
David Stover (A): Beauty comes in from the beginning. You have to think about the end-product. We knew we wanted to set up a recycling project and make an eco-friendly product, but we had to make a great product that stood up next to competitors and in the market. If you don’t do that, then you really don’t accomplish what you want. If people aren’t buying it and people aren’t putting value into it, then you’re not able to create a sustainable program. It’s evident when there’s a lot of sustainability and eco-friendly practices going on, but most importantly there’s a beautiful product put in front of people. I think when you have that effect on people, you get them to smile and you get them to enjoy something. Afterwards, you explain that the product is created from collecting discarded fishing nets and cleaning up the water. You explain that the product is 100% recyclable. You’re able to capture them from the start with a beautiful product, then blow them away with the story behind it. I think it’s a powerful approach. I think it’s definitely changing the world of design and changing the way things are made.
Bill Browning (A): Look at this board! (holds it up) It’s beautiful with the reference to the fish tail and scales. How awesome is that?
Lindsay James (Q): How important is happiness/well-being to the broader sustainability movement?
David Stover (A): There’s a saying on our team, “bringing joy in the marvels of risk.” This highlights the joy that you feel in nature, which was a lot of the influence behind our project. One of the things that hit home for us was that this place, the ocean, was special—being in the water, whether it was sailing, surfing, or swimming. This was where we were seeing the impact of pollution and we wanted to do something. But we also wanted to make a product that would bring joy and happiness to people while they were using it. I think a lot of people feel doom and gloom about what’s going on in the environment. But highlighting some of the more beautiful things that are out there and making sure to expose nature in design is really important.
Lindsay James (Q): If you had the power to change anything in our world, what would it be?
David Stover (A): Let’s go back to the issue of waste. Think about a cleaner tomorrow and what the world may look like without waste. If you can eliminate that word, you could live in a cleaner eco-system. I think that’s a pretty awesome world to think about.
Bill Browning (A): I want to conclude with the topic of restorative. One of the things that really pushed us when thinking about biophilic design is the fact that more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. Some of those cities around the world are huge and sprawling but they don’t have much nature. It’s about how we reconnect people with nature in the built environment as a way for them to be healthy and more whole.
About the Panelists
David Stover is a global citizen. He is the CEO and co-founder of Bureo, a skateboard company. Bureo recycles used fishing nets into high quality, high design skateboards. David holds a Bachelor of Science and Mechanical Engineering and has a background in financial analysis. He grew up in a small island community and that is where he attributes his love for the ocean.
Bill Browning is an advocate for sustainable design solutions at all levels of business as well as government and civil society. His organization, Terrapin Bright Green, has brought biophilic design into the spotlight with their research and practice. They are also leaders in bringing biometric solutions to the forefront. Bill has been a long time advisor of Interface, serving on our eco-green team and advising our sustainability journey for nearly two decades.