Entrepreneur Richard Shirtcliffe On Tackling Plastic Ocean Waste Through Designer Furniture
Could commerce be a solution to eliminating the enormous amounts of plastic debris floating in the world’s oceans? Richard Shirtcliffe thinks so.
Named as one of ‘The 6 Innovators Changing Denver’s Aesthetic’ by the mile-high city’s 5280 Home magazine, Richard Shirtcliffe is co-CEO of New Zealand and Denver-based furniture-makers Noho. The name is from the te reo Māori word meaning, according to Richard, “to sit, to stay, to dwell, to live.”
In an interview with Hilary Masell Oswald, former Wellingtonian Richard talks about the company’s twofold mission: Create good-looking furnishings from materials like sustainable polymer and upcycled plastic removed from the ocean, and design those pieces to support the physiology of the human body.
“The epiphany that started the whole thing came when I was vacationing on a beach in Indonesia. My family was learning to surf, and I was watching the volume of plastic washing in around them. I thought, “I only really know commerce, so I need to find a way to use [that knowledge] to address this problem.” I knew that part of the solution would be creating value from this waste.
“Then I was introduced to Formway, a New Zealand company that’s been pioneering dynamic comfort in commercial furniture for companies like Knoll. The question then became: What if we could create chairs that move with the body and support blood flow, and therefore improve cognitive function and overall well-being? And what if the chairs were made from repolymerized plastic? Essentially, we’re setting out to improve the way people sit, live, and care for the world around them.”
Noho’s first product is called The Move Chair.
“It flexes and moves with the body, rocks back and forth. It supports the body when you lean back in a relaxed fashion—as you might after a family dinner—and when you lean forward, as you do while you’re working on a laptop or crafting with the children,” Richard says.
Richard says that more Noho products will be coming soon.
“We want to build a thriving business that improves the world and improves the well-being of individuals within it. You could say that’s a very big mission and a tough one to achieve, and I would say—in line with [Swedish teenage climate activist] Greta Thunberg—that we have to make a start and it’s crucial to make a start on big things. This is a ripple that turns into waves that turn the tide.”
Original article by Hilary Masell Oswald, 5280 Home, December 2019/January 2020
Photo by: Chayce Lanphear