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Furniture made from algae: sustainable, unique and resource-efficient

From sushi ingredient to trendy raw material: the textile and interior design industries are currently developing a variety of environmentally friendly, innovative materials based on algae. These products could help shrink the mountains of plastic waste around the world while also encouraging sustainable lifestyles. We explore what makes algae so unique and how they can be turned into furniture.

Organic raw material Pink algae in the water by dangquangn on Pixabay

Algae (re)grow very quickly, making them a raw material with huge potential. Is furniture made from algae the future? (Photo: dangquangn on Pixabay)

Yes to organic raw materials, no to plastics

Plastics are harmful to the environment, especially if they aren’t recyclable. Manufacturers of food, textiles and furnishings have long since understood that sustainable solutions will be sought after in the future. This is where a materials trend comes into play that boasts a number of benefits. Due to the minerals they contain, seaweed and other forms of algae are not only healthy ingredients in food, but they can also be processed to create various materials.

Textiles, packaging and furniture made from algae already exist. Thanks to the special processes used to produce them, innovative, algae-based materials can now replace plastics, because they are not only just as strong but are also able to dissolve completely. Some inventive start-ups like Notpla and smartfiber have taken advantage of these qualities and developed resource-efficient ideas for products. Notpla – an abbreviation of “not plastic” – produces an edible, seaweed-based membrane that keeps liquids securely packaged. Smartfiber has successfully launched its SeaCell™ fibre , which is composed of cellulose and seaweed. The biodegradable product is mainly used to make textiles. Organic raw materials are therefore important production inputs that don’t produce plastic waste and pave the way for an environmentally friendly circular economy.

Algae Farm in South Korea by Vanished Account Byeznhpyxeuztibuo

Algae is used in a variety of ways. Algae farms like this one in South Korea can produce the organic raw material for the textile, packaging and furniture industries. (Photo: Vanished Account Byeznhpyxeuztibuo)

Using algae has many advantages

Thanks to their numerous positive properties, algae can be used in a variety of ways. They are gradually becoming established as alternatives to plastics. The best thing about them is that they are renewable, compostable and absorb excess CO₂. And so, entire marine aquaculture businesses growing seaweed are serving as raw material suppliers. These seaweed farms have the tremendous advantage of having a positive impact on the environment. They provide habitats for other organisms and produce oxygen via photosynthesis, which is vital for all living things. Were oxygen levels in the ocean to fall too low, there would be a mass extinction of all species.

Algae are therefore exciting drivers of innovation when it comes to furniture made from renewable raw materials . They contain alginate, a biopolymer that provides stable, resilient and elastic qualities. Furniture made of algae is pleasant to the touch and looks very natural. The typical algae odour disappears after production. SeaCellTM fibre, for example, is made from brown seaweed extracts and eucalyptus wood. The fibres are as soft as silk, odourless, have a natural antibacterial effect and are biodegradable.

Eco-friendly furniture made from algae

In other words, algae have a lot to offer the furniture production sector. With textiles, foams, faux leather or plastic-like materials made from algae, this highly sustainable, renewable raw material is now being put to use. Some furniture designers have already seized upon this innovation, and Danish designers Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt , who have been experimenting with natural resources for several years, are considered pioneers. For their Terroir collection, they created chairs and a lamp from seaweed that they collected themselves along the Danish coast. David Thulstrup is also a visionary in this field and has designed furniture made from eelgrass. His collection is called Momentum and is produced for Søuld. The use of this material has a long tradition in Denmark and was already found in roof thatching by the 1600s. Such thatched roofs are similar to the roofs thatched with straw that are familiar today.

Given that algae produce oxygen for use by sea creatures, they can also have a positive impact inside buildings. Microalgae could help to improve indoor air quality, an idea that has been embraced by Berlin-based start-up Solaga . The company’s founders explored how the air in rooms could be purified and developed a piece of wall art made from microalgae, which improves the air quality. The microalgae are attached to a non-woven material and connected to a water tank that’s topped up regularly. The product concept is similar in approach to that of an indoor moss wall . In addition to furniture and decorative accessories, mattress products made from algae are also on the market – like this model made from seaweed, latex and coconut fibre by Ivo ir ko., UAB Joint Stock Company.

Momentum" algae furniture collection by David Thulstrup

Made from seagrass, the Momentum furniture collection by David Thulstrup combines modern interior design with sustainability. (Photo: David Thulstrup)

Organic raw materials for a clean future

The climate crisis and resource scarcity are constantly posing new challenges for product manufacturers and designers – challenges without quick solutions. That’s why packaging, furniture and textiles made from algae are so pertinent for the interior design industry. It’s a material that grows back, protects resources, produces oxygen in the ocean and leaves no plastic waste behind.

Anyone who uses sustainable materials to manufacture their products not only benefits the environment but also follows a forward-looking sustainability trend with strong market appeal. After all, consumers want to live healthier, more responsible lifestyles and use fewer resources.

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