Imperial College London graduate Nicole Stjernswärd is a design technologist whose work focuses on sustainable practices and innovation fostered through interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists, researchers, and designers.
For the final project of her master’s degree, Stjernswärd was inspired by the use of oil paint in classical painting. She interviewed several artists about the materials used in their work. Once she realized how toxic most of these pigments are, she started researching “bio-derived color,” which is made from plants, flowers, and barks.
Historically color came from plants and minerals, but over time and with the onset of industrialization, cheap, petrochemical colors became the norm, and the eco-friendly methods of creating pigments fell out of fashion.
The result of her research was the creation of Kaiku Living Color, a system that turns food waste into sustainable color pigment. The project is the result of collaborating with artists and scientists to rigorously test and understand natural color uses existing, old knowledge that people may have forgotten about, and incorporates new technologies.
The system works by boiling the peelings from fruits and vegetables in water to create dye. This solution is then forced through an atomizing nozzle into a glass vacuum cleaner that evaporates the water, resulting in a powder that can be used as non-toxic pigment for paints, inks, or dyes.
“Since many synthetic pigments today are toxic or made of ambiguous materials, color is typically considered a ‘contamination’ in the Circular Economy principles,” Stjernswärd told LS:N Global. “I hope to change this paradigm.”
The project not only tackles the environmental impact of current pigments, but it also addresses the problem of excessive food waste. As consumers become more concerned about unsustainable consumption patterns, brands are forced to rethink their entire supply chain, down to the pigments used in their products.
Photo: via Kaiku Living Color