Issue date: 05 May 2004

ISSUE DATE: 05/05/04

An innovative water carrier made out of bamboo has won Tirza Abb, a student from the University of the West of England, a prestigious Waitrose Internship worth £2,500 from the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

Tirza will work in the head office at Waitrose in Bracknell with the design team where she will have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and run her own projects with the top retail chain.

The brief for the award was to design sustainable packaging for water. Tirza explains, “I relished this challenge because I am very conscious of how designers are largely responsible for the explosion of packaging, especially for food. I immediately decided to move away from plastic, a material that is bad for the environment in so many ways. I started to look at what packaging lessons could be learned from nature, the most obvious being the banana. Then I aimed to produce a package that would be as complete in function.

“I had noticed that bamboo is used for all kinds of things in Australia where it grows like a weed. Also during research I discovered that bamboo was used as a water container by the Japanese during the Second World War. Further research into bamboo showed that there are so many positive reasons to grow it as a container crop.

“Benefits include the fact that it grows fast in a variety of environments. Bamboo acts as a carbon sink releasing valuable oxygen into the atmosphere. Bamboo pulp can be used to form the cork in the container. It is possible to print on bamboo using vegetable inks and the shoots can be eaten. Also the inner lining of the bamboo called ‘tabasheer’ is used as a medicine for asthma. It is in every sense a whole crop which can be used in sustainable way for many applications. The water container is one example but I can see that this idea could be extended as packaging for a range of products.

”The resulting design is not just functional – it is also beautiful and demonstrates that we might look back to our roots quite literally to address our over packaged society.”

When the internship with Waitrose comes to an end Tirza says that her dream job would be to work as a designer for the Eden Project in Cornwall, the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales or At-Bristol. In her proposal for the competition Tirza wrote ‘Life has become something you can consume and social issues are reduced in importance. This is a climate that graphic designers have helped to create but they are just as well placed in society to help change it. My studio based work in my third year has been based on the idea that as a Graphic Designer I can contribute to an environment that enriches society.”

Tirza’s water carrier design will automatically now be entered for Wally Olins Opportunity Award which awards prizes of up to £3,500 for designs that aid industry.


Editor’s notes

For more information about the RSA Design Directions Awards On-line exhibition visit RSA Design Directions encourages emerging young designers to engage with the broader social and environmental context in which they will work. Themes covered this year include Interactive Media, Medical Products, Packaging, Postage Stamps, Medical Products, Ceramic Futures and Transport.

Prizes this year total in the region of £100,000 comprising travel awards and workplace internships and sponsors include GlaxoSmithKline, Ceramic Industry Forum and Ideal Standard. Over 1,500 students entered this year’s competition and previous winners include Jonathan Ive, designer of the iPod and fashion designers Betty Jackson and Marcus Lupfer.

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