We’ve heard of “trunk shows,” but the paintings on display at a new green website take that concept a little further. The colorful canvases have been created by a group of artistic Asian elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, a government-sponsored preserve located in Hang Chat, Lampang, Thailand.
The website, which launched this week, is called Design with Benefits. It is the brainchild of Tania Garbe, a young architect who built it with the help of a 2012 Start-Up Chile technology grant for world-class, early stage entrepreneurs.
Design With Benefits is a first-of-its-kind e-commerce site that focuses solely on products devoted to eco-friendly design activism, while promoting public-interest design projects and advocating a model of ethical purchasing. Products on the site include a range of “greenware,” including tote bags by ex-gang members, minimalistic wooden radios crafted by hand in Indonesia, and copper jewelry made from a salvaged historic Frank Lloyd Wright roof.
What’s more, the site gives back a percentage of net profits to one remarkable public interest project each month. This month, three non-profit projects are posted on the site—one of which will win enough votes from visitors to gain a donation. They include:
- Taking Root , based in Montreal, Canada, which develops social reforestation projects in collaboration with small-scale farmers in Nicaragua
- SCALEAfrica, which is dedicated to the design and construction of vital school infrastructure projects in rural sub-Saharan Africa
- Public Workshop , which is re-imagining education and redefining the way that youth participate as citizens and leaders in the design of their communities
“Design With Benefits partners with companies, promotes design efforts, and sells products that embody design activism and ethical values at the core of their businesses,” said Tania Garbe. “For example, Magno handcrafted wooden radios and toys are designed and manufactured in a small farming village in Indonesia that suffers from economic decline due to the downfall of agriculture in the region. Singgih Susilo Kartono, the designer and founder of Magno, introduced craft as an alternative economic activity to his village, and now former farmers learn craftsmanship skills and have a new source of income. In addition, Singgih has a mission to restore the depleted natural environment of his village, so for every tree cut, he plants 125 more.”
Design With Benefits was born out of the challenges that Garbe saw while working on architecture projects abroad—such as designing a low-carbon school for disabled children in the Gobi desert in Mongolia and working with a top-tier social architecture firm in Santiago, Chile.
In addition to selling one-of-a-kind goods, the site features an online magazine that promotes current news stories in the realm of design activism for sustainability.