Think about the word “natural.” Doesn’t it conjure images of pristine waters, green leaves and crisp air? Mother Earth’s finest. The elements. Real, clean, green, beautiful.
Now think about the word “real.” Isn’t the real thing authentic, genuine, factual and, dare I say, trustworthy? That from which “imitation” gets its name. No lying, no cheating, raw.
Now really think about this: can something be real without being natural? Is the unreal always unnatural? Does “real” or “natural” equate to “better?” These types of semantics are getting in the way of something far more important and relevant, especially as we approach Earth Day. Sustainability.
There’s a brilliant woman by the name of Grace Jeffers who has dedicated her career and much of her life’s passion to these types of questions. A design historian and materials specialist, Grace has helped me break down the barriers these semantics create to address society’s unconscionable obsession with “real” and “natural” materials. Come on, People. “Manmade natural” is the new real deal!
Now, as much as I’ve learned from Grace, I will forever be the student in this scenario. That said, what I do know is that real is not always best. Sometimes synthetic is the way to go. As Grace smartly posed, “Would you upholster a chair in tiger?” No, of course not! Even though it’s real, it’s also endangered. Most wouldn’t even dream of it. Apply this logic to other equally endangered species like zebrawood or ebony. One thing’s for certain – you have a no-brainer solution for all kitchen countertop needs: laminate. Want a real woodgrain look without the real environmental impact? Laminate. Desire a natural stone, but suddenly feel guilty about the fact that gouging granite out of the earth is far from sustainable? Laminate. Maybe you want a tiger-print ‘top – no judging. Laminate!
Full disclosure: one of my clients, Wilsonart, happens to know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to sustainable surfacing solutions. (Hey, a PR person like me doesn’t become fascinated with a subject like “materials” out of thin air! Props to the source of this newfound passion.)
Respecting nature doesn’t always mean opting for natural materials. So, this Earth Day, out with the stigma that “fake” or imitation materials are the lesser breed. In many ways, they reign supreme.
But in this case, rather than fake being the expert, I’ll direct you to the real thing: if you happen to be in NYC or DC, be sure to check out Grace Jeffers in action at her upcoming #ManMadeNatural lectures. Hope to see you there.
New York City
April 26 6-8:30pm
79 Madison Avenue, 14th Fl
April 28 5-7:30pm
1725 Eye St NW, #550