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Zenobia-Ann Bajina, Founder of Cura-Vie, designs pieces of the highest quality and style with responsible decadence.

I’d like to say that I always wanted to design eco-products. That it was my motivation through my teens and twenties. But it wasn’t and it didn’t. I have always been interested in the environment, particularly gardens, but I worked and partied in the City. My passion for eco-design emerged when I upset my household by putting a black plastic wormery, complete with green ‘shower cap’, outside the front door.

To appease my family and other visiting worm critics, I searched for something that disguised the wormery but would not discourage me from taking proper care of my new wiggly brood. Having brought a Victoria town garden back to its former glory, putting sticky plastic leaves on the tub wasn’t ever going to suffice. I worked through various wooden options, including pretty trellis but still it looked like a badly-hidden plastic tub!

Steel Camellia 'Botanical Butterfly' Frame
My investigations took me around the online eco world and I began to realise that the wider world’s perception of eco products is not that positive. Associations are made with ‘tree-hugging’ and products are seen to promote environmental protection over style. I realised that I wouldn’t buy something which was explicitly giving a message, I wanted something stylish that would prompt people to ask about it when they visited without knowing that it wasn’t doing any harm.

I didn’t expect to end up using stainless steel. I spent time studying sustainable building materials, looking for inspiration and as I delved deeper into the environmental factors, steel started to shine through. I think the biggest mistake people can make when weeding out the ‘greenwash’ and looking at how environmentally friendly a product is, is to ignore the lifecycle of the product. Something that starts out positively may require so much maintenance and protection that any benefits are outweighed by the longer term planetary cost.

The thing I love most about steel is that it is entirely recyclable without losing any of its properties, so its lifecycle, once out of the ground, is almost infinite. It is the most recycled material in the world. Steel also has managed to transcend the need for green labelling. All stainless steel in the UK is made up of approximately 60% recycled steel now. Only 1% of structural steel used in building construction ends up in landfill. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because the practicalities of industry support it. It makes sense.

Close up of Botanical Butterfly Frame
No materials are perfect, all tax the earth somehow, but when you consider the treatment other products need, it is amazing how stainless steel balances out against them.

One insight I gained from my time in the City, which still surprises me as much now as it did then, is how many people just do not care about the environment. It is not even that they are too busy or distracted by other causes...some people are actively anti environmental protection. This discovery pushed me to design practical eco products that fit with current fashion so well that even an eco-sceptic would unwittingly buy them! My first product, the Steel Camellia, designed to protect worms and disguise bins, was born this spring.

I hope Cura Vie will inspire those who aspire for beautiful things. Those things that just happen to be friendly to the planet. To be green...but not to say green.

Stainless Steel Interesting Facts (the positives + and the negatives - ):-

+ All discarded pieces, such as edge trims, are returned to the furnace as in-house recycled scrap – so there is no wastage and no landfill issue.

+ During the early stages, the gas that is released is collected and the dust recycled to salvage the residual metal.

- Steel production does use water. The main pollutant is outgoing water which can be of poor quality. There are ongoing improvements to quality and amount used.

+ Stainless steel lasts longer – so products can be used for longer, reducing the need to produce new items and cutting the amount of manufacturing necessary in a lifetime.

+ Stainless steel holds its quality, no matter how many times it is recycled. It could be recycled for ever more!
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