As designers we must bear in mind that 80% of the environmental impact of products and constructions is determined in the design phase», states John Thackara. The design is central to improving the performance of products across their entire lifecycle. Disposal and recycling is simplified by rationalization of the use of materials, optimization of manufacturing techniques, simplification of distribution and methods of use, maintenance and updating, and minimization of energy use. All of this can be defined in the design phase. As renowned experts and researchers claim, the greatest challenge of the 21st century is the translation of the concept of sustainability into reality. In designing for the environment a systemic and innovative approach at the planning stage is of central importance. This approach is echoed by Marco Capellini, architect and founder of Matrec (the first data bank of recycled products and materials): «With the design for disassembly strategy it is possible to provide for and therefore facilitate the separation of all product components to optimise their re-use and recycling». The company and more specifically the designer are the protagonists in the development of products and low environmental impact production processes, the extension of the lifecycle of the product and more effective disposal. The manager of the Zanotta technical division, Daniele Greppi, explains: «These are aspects that a good design must always take into account, above and beyond the contemporary concern with environmental issues. We still produce certain pieces of furniture that were first designed at the end of the 1950s that are perfect examples of disassembly and dematerialisation, such as the Mezzadro stool and the Sella dei Castiglioni saddle chair (1957). These are real examples of the recycling of manufacturing components seen in the use of a metal spring, a wooden foot and tractor’s seat in perforated metal. Castiglioni was already making use of these forms of design with his ironic creations in many areas of furnishing, including lighting (the Toyo floor lamp manufactured by Flos), at a time when ecology and eco-design were unheard of».
The examples quoted by Greppi highlight a planning process that has been common to other furnishing items in Zanotta for ten years. The Sanmarco by Gae Aulenti and the Marcuso by Marco Zanuso tables are two perfect examples. Amongst the chairs there are the Tonietta by Enzo Mari and the April by Aulenti. Sustainability in the planning and manufacturing process is seen in the practicality of packing and shipping and also the potential for adaptation to meet client’s needs and ease of substitution of components. Greppi continues: «At Zanotta, we have always applied in the design phases the principles advanced by the best designers who create for us, starting with economies of scale in the use of materials and components. A good example of this is the table tops that are separately packaged and removed from their legs for easier packaging and shipping. Many of our pieces are assembled with screws, the use of a system of removable joints greatly simplifies assembly and disassembly. In the planning phase the choice of materials is also important and can have a positive effect on the overall environmental impact of the piece. Mari used an aluminium structure and a plastic seat for the original version of the Tonietta. You only have to unscrew a few components and the seat is disassembled. The April chair is made from stainless-steel with a removable fabric or leather seat. When a material is natural as well as effortlessly disassembled it is easier to dispose of at the end of its lifecycle».