Category Archives: Environmental

Wellness and the Home

Over the last few years, Wellness has become a word many have heard all too much. It is something we see on social media, on the news, and in magazines, and is now a word hard to escape from.

With various industries across the spectrum capitalising on it, a look into what Wellness really is, and what it can do for us, is long overdue. Holiday companies are selling out of mindfulness and yoga retreats, health-food accounts on Instagram are monopolising the web, and spa treatments are more popular than ever.

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The Latest Outdoor Living Trends from Glee 2017

Glee 2017

Trend-Monitor visited the Retail Lab @ Glee this month to find out about the latest outdoor living trends.

Glee is the UK’s garden and outdoor living trade show, showcasing brands, new products and garden retail insights.

Based at the Birmingham NEC and spread across 8 different show sectors; landscaping and garden decoration, garden care, outdoor entertaining, plants, pet products, home, gift and clothing, retailer experiences and services, food and catering, the exhibition attracts over 550 exhibitors and over 7,000 visitors and buyers.

The focal point of the 2017 show was the Retail Lab @ Glee, built in collaboration with the Horticultural Trades Association (the HTA).  Designed as a future-facing, interactive hub of inspiration, the display provided visiting retailers with the latest trend information and a long-term vision for their retail environments.

The Retail Lab focused on four key themes:-

#1. Rewilding

Glee 2017 Rewilding

Working with nature to create unique shopping environments.

85% of people live in an urban environment and this number is growing

However there is a latent attraction to wildlife and as the urban environment becomes greener there is a different market emerging. One where space is limited and gardens are not conventional. There is an opportunity to capture this market by providing inspiration, a can do philosophy and by providing knowledge on the benefit of growing in small areas.

#2. Community

Glee 2017 Community

Bringing people together through gardening projects

With the increasing urban population, community gardening, shared gardens and public spaces are becoming the new meeting places and the centre of community life. Garden centres can harness this trend and help people enjoy the ‘working together’ experience.


#3. Well-being

Glee 2017 Wellbeing

Creating outdoor retreats to regain balance

There is a growing understanding of the importance that outdoor activities play in our psychological and physiological well-being. The benefits of healthy eating, exercise and mental de-stressing (mindfulness) are well know.

However there is a growing understanding of the positive aspect plants can play in our lives as well. Smell, sound,air circulation and re charging all help us study and perform better.

#4. Family

Glee 2017 Family

Combining quality together time with skill development

Gardens are no longer places to work in and look at. They now form part of everyday living. Patios, play areas, outdoor seating, entertaining in the garden all form part of our everyday lives.

Gardens need to be user friendly for the whole family, accommodating the needs of children, pets as well as adults.


Source:  Glee Birmingham 2017 


Building Places That Work for Everyone

Building places that work for everyong

This report by the UK Green Building Council gives an insights into key Government priorities for the built environment and how the construction industry can address the challenges these priorities raise.

Under Theresa May’s leadership, the current Conservative Government has set out its vision of a country, an economy and a society that works for everyone. Achieving this vision requires the Government to address some of the fundamental challenges facing British people today.

  • The urgent need to build new homes and thriving communities
  • To reduce energy bills for those that are just about managing
  • Improved health and wellbeing to reduce the burden on the NHS
  • For jobs to be created, skills to be developed, and productivity to be boosted in a post-Brexit Britain

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) and its multitude of diverse and progressive member businesses believe that the built environment is fundamental to addressing these challenges, indicating that building places that work for everyone can and will support the Government’s policy priorities.

Download the report here



The Changing Consumer podcast from the KBB Conference

Changing Consumer podcast

At the kbbreview Retail and Design Conference 2016 Trend-Monitor’s Research Director, Jane Blakeborough, took part in a panel discussion about the Changing Consumer.

A podcast of this discussion is now available.

Alongside Graham Jones, Sales and Marketing Director of Mereway Kitchens,  and Tina Riley, Managing Director of retailer Modern Homes, Jane identified some key consumer trends which are influencing the way consumers purchase new bathrooms, discussing research prior to purchase, individualism, bargain hunting, environmental issues and much more.

Click on the image below to listen to this session via Youtube or follow this link


Note:  J M Blake Associates is now part of Trend-Monitor Ltd


A Vision of the Eco-Future

A vision of the eco-future

This year at EcoBuild,  the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) installed an interactive voting system to get people thinking about the flip-side of sustainability.

It’s all too easy to lose people when talking about ‘2 degrees of warming’, or ‘400 parts per million of carbon dioxide’, and UK-GBC wanted to change the messaging around climate change to explain how taking positive action today could lead to a better future for us all.

To do this they did some futures thinking – which involves imagining future scenarios and then working back to understand what enabling conditions are required from the present day onwards – to come up with five ‘good news’ headlines for 2050. Each of the headlines relates to one of UK-GBC’s core values, which they will be focusing on over the next 10 years as they work towards their vision of a more sustainable built environment.

UK-GCB voting for the future


What is your vision of 2050?

The following imagined news stories are placed in order of the votes received by Ecobuild attendees:

1st Place: “UK homeless population drops to all-time low”

For the first time in history, people can afford to live wherever they choose. Investment in local and national transport infrastructure, alongside widespread business uptake of remote working technology and local ‘tech hubs’ and of course the government’s commitment in recent years to high-quality house building across the country, mean that we have all but eradicated the historic phenomenon of rough sleeping.

2nd Place: “Record extreme weather event tests new resilient homes – no reported casualties”

Thanks to the climate change adaptation measures implemented over the last 30 years, UK homes are now able to withstand flooding and storms that historically devastated the country. The images of the 2010s where people were driven out of their homes seem barely believable when the technology to provide resilient homes already existed. This latest storm passed over the UK, barely registering, except for slightly higher viewing figures for the 46th final of Strictly Come Dancing.

3rd Place: “Cycling to work now healthiest way to travel”

Back in the 2010s, rising air pollution levels in cities meant travelling by bike actually did more harm than good to the health of cyclists. But today, data released by urban air pollution watchdog, WaftWatch, shows that pollution levels are at an all-time low – thanks to the shift to electric vehicles and the introduction of cleantech for domestic heating and industrial processes. This, combined with zero-crash-risk, self-driving cars means that now the only risk cycling has on your health is the chafing of lycra on your inner thigh.

4th Place: “Pollinator populations reach highest levels since 1950”

This year we have at last seen numbers of bees and other pollinators return to the levels they were at in the 1950s, before they were decimated in the latter half of last century and early part of this one. The national ‘bee-have yourself’ campaign of the 2020s, which saw families across the country planting wildflower seeds in their gardens, together with the urban ‘bee superhighways’, mandated in the 2030s which delivered retrofitted green corridors to link together all green spaces within cities, have made the country pollinator friendly once more. The knock-on effect is a move away from the sky-high pricing of manually pollinated food stuffs which we saw in the early 2030s.

5th Place: “New London rises. Brand new city built from 100% recycled materials from Old London city”

In what is now a global experiment of epic proportions, London has been entirely rebuilt using its own existing and reclaimed materials. The ‘Circular City’ is now reborn as an international example of salvaging materials. The UK has always been a world leader in recycling, but has now made the ultimate commitment to reuse, recycle and repurpose. The Mayor of London said “In the Victorian age, London was the first international city and now the story has come full circle”.

So what does this tell UK-GBC?

While these examples might seem far-fetched, their futures thinking shows that changes of this magnitude, or similar, could be achieved and what the poll results reveal could be key to achieving them.

Homelessness and casualties from extreme weather events were the run-away poll winners, and that isn’t surprising, given that they are tragedies we see daily, both in our own lives and in the media. We tend to focus on the issues that are more human and relatable rather than the far-reaching issues for humanity.

But what would happen to humanity if the bees all died out? What would happen if we used up the worlds resources? Famine, war, mass loss of life are the startling realities.

As an industry, it is key to remember that people will always prioritise issues that impact them directly and it is vital to find a way to communicate the case for a more sustainable built environment in a relatable way.

Source: UK-GBC


Sustainability Nudging

sustainability nudging

Nudges attempt to subtly change the environment in which people make decisions to help them make better choices — better for themselves and for society. 

People all over the world are becoming increasingly concerned about the health of the natural environment. For over 40 years, the phrase “think globally, act locally” has urged people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities.

Individuals have long been encouraged to save energy at home and at work, and to choose environmentally friendly food and other goods. But studies suggest that people still fail to make even small changes in their behaviour to address the negative environmental consequences of their actions.

In the past, most conservation and sustainability initiatives have used the sledgehammer approach to aggressively pursue behavioural shifts.  However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that “nudges” are a more effective solution.

By making small changes that exploit our judgemental biases, nudges re-engineer the environment in which decisions are made. One of the best examples of a nudge shows that by making driving license applicants organ donors by default, organ donations could be as much as 20 times higher than where the reverse is true. This subtle change to the default option from “opt-in” to “opt-out” dramatically affects participation rates, despite only changing which box people check on a form.

A wide range of effective nudges are now at work in the world, and companies are looking at more subtle ways to engage consumers in making short-term decisions that have long-lasting effects on the environment

Worldbeing is self-directed wearable and app that aims to help people reduce their carbon footprint, by making it engaging and social. Supported by the Carbon Trust, the app tracks users’ carbon usage to increase their understanding, and to encourage action by linking daily activities to their impact on the climate. Worldbeing aim to drive real change by helping a community of likeminded people make lifestyle changes to improve the wellbeing of the planet.

Other companies, like Smart & Blue with their Hydrao Showerhead, help to encourage sustainable habits in the home through positive reinforcement. Hydrao is an environmentally friendly connected device that tracks water usage in the shower.  By using LED lights to warn the user of excessive water usage, turning different colours when different thresholds are reached, it educates people about water conservation in the process.

Some brands such as Lush Cosmetics and Recyclebank are also bringing exciting “eco-innovations” to market. The aim is to nudge people towards waste-reducing behaviour through gamification and fun. For example, one game designer has created a card game called Waste-Not that encourages players to rethink uses for common objects that may otherwise end up in the bin.

Growing evidence shows that these nudges do change policy-relevant behaviours, while being inexpensive to implement. This success has led to the formation of the world’s first sustainability hub – bringing together ideas for sustainability based on nudges rather than big actions. The U.K. and U.S. governments have even set up behavioural insights teams (or “Nudge Units”) to find and quickly disseminate behavioural nudges for public policy.

All of the apparent benefits of nudges don’t come without their controversies though. The use of subtle manipulation tactics may not seem entirely ethical to some people, and what counts as a public benefit is never straightforward. Conflicting interests often compete, and whose interests get prioritised can be highly controversial.

Nonetheless, we are already exposed to a web of influences, and many of these are negative. Cities are designed in ways that make driving easier than cycling, and many goods are designed and marketed to be bought and discarded in increasingly wasteful cycles.

Nudging is about creating a choice architecture that guides towards an environmentally-friendly outcome. So rather than an unacceptable form of manipulation, nudges are a common-sense approach to helping consumers make informed decisions about the effects they personally could have on the environment.


Originally posted by Jane Blakeborough on Linkedin

Hydrao by Smart & Blue

Hydrao by French company, Smart & Blue, is an environmentally friendly connected device that tracks water usage in the shower, helping encourage sustainable habits in the home through positive reinforcement.

The connected showerhead begins tracking the water flow as soon as the shower is turned on. A green light will be shown on the Hydrao, which will remain the same color as long as the shower water used does not exceed 3 gallons.

Once this water level is exceeded, the Hydrao will communicate with the mobile app and change colors to alert the user of the next threshold. The Smart & Blue mobile app (available on iOS and Google Play) is designed for a family of four and allows the users to create thresholds and individual profiles, customise with their favourite colour and track their savings per shower.

Smart showerhead

On average, a 7-10 minute shower will require a minimum of 20 gallons of water, so the 3-tier thresholds are calibrated to alert the users before that amount of water is reached.   Hydrao’s LED lights change colour based on reaching threshold levels of 5 gallons, 7 gallons and 10 gallons, so for example, if a user customizes their thresholds to reflect yellow, red and green, the lights will change to these colours as each level is reached

The bathroom is responsible for nearly half of all water consumed in the home and 20% of that water is flushed down the toilet while the remaining percentage is comprised of showering and sink usage.

If used daily, Hydrao can potentially save users up to 5k gallons of water a year, per person, and depending on the source of water heating – electric or gas, users will also see a difference in their overall household utility bills.


Smart Shower appAs the struggle to convince consumers to adopt more sustainable habits, the Hydrao is an example of a more softly-softly approach, a move away from the finger-wagging and tapping into the trend for sustainability nudging.   Not only does Hydrao make shower time more enjoyable for children, in addition they are learning about water conservation in a fun way and developing sustainable life habits.

“I created Hydrao to with the idea in mind that I could educate my little girls on the importance of saving water; I needed to make bath time fun and educational in order for them to develop good habits,” says Gabriel Della Monica, CEO and Co-Founder of Smart & Blue. “Shortly after seeing the positive effects it had on them both, I decided to bring the same knowledge and excitement to other families around the world.”

Smart & Blue specializes in creating connected devices through sustainable development. Hydrao is Smart & Blue’s first product and CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree.


The UK Timber Construction Market Reaches New Heights

As the world’s oldest construction material, timber is enjoying something of a renaissance as architects battle it out to design the world’s tallest timber building.

Where previously, the height of a timber building was limited to 7 storeys high due to the risk of fire, new construction methods involving the use of cross laminated timber (CLT) have changed this.  CLT is very solid and claims to be as good at resisting fire as concrete.  Although concrete doesn’t burn, it can collapse at high temperatures, whereas CLT burns more slowly and the first flame does not appear until 400°C.

Now a 10-storey residential building is currently being constructed in Hackney, which will be the tallest of its kind in the UK and similar developments are being proposed across the world as the boundaries on timber construction are being pushed to achieve ever taller buildings.

Baobab Development Paris
The Baobab Development Paris. Illustration: Michael Green Architecture

A 35-storey timber-supported tower has been designed by Vancouver architect Michael Green as part of a six-tower development in Paris called Baobab.  The building will be over three times taller than the world’s current tallest timber building, the ten-storey Forté Apartments in Melbourne.

Other 30-storey-plus wooden towers are planned in Stockholm, Vancouver and Vienna.

And it’s not just these new heights which are creating a renewed interest in timber construction.  The health aspects and environmental credentials of living a wood home are very appealing, plus it’s thermal efficiencies and acoustic qualities, low running costs and versatility of texture and finish have all positioned wood as the construction material of choice for many prominent architects across the world.

Strong Sales Growth in the Timber Frame Market

In the UK, although in Scotland timber frames are used in 70% of new-build homes, until recently bricks and masonry products were the main choice for developers in England and Wales, leaving timber with just 15-20% market share.

However in the past couple of years, timber has started to grow in popularity and is being used in an increasing number of developments.  It’s use is predicted to rise, with sales enquiries up by 40-50% on two years ago, according to Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

A recent report into the UK timber frame market by MTW Research highlighted a profit growth of 0.5% in 2014, with double digit sales growth over the past 2 years, and a forecasted sales growth of 20% by 2019.

As the country comes out of recession and housing demand is high, timber meets the challenge for a fast, sustainable, cost-effective build.  The factory conditions used in the offsite manufacturing of timber frames ensures a better quality finish, there is less onsite activity and construction waste, plus a reduced risk of accidents.

As a naturally low carbon product, building with timber can achieve economic growth without the huge increases in emissions and energy demand that brick or steel production incurs.   This has led the UK’s wood promotor, Wood for Good, to campaign for a new rule in planning guidance requiring “wood to be considered as the primary construction material in all publicly funded newbuild and refurbishment projects”

Source:  Housing Magazine


Ikea Explores the Future of Urban Living

Ikea Space10

Swedish retail giant, Ikea, has set up Space10, a future-living lab in the heart of Copenhagen. Their mission is to assess the future of urban living and the challenges this creates, then to explore solutions for a smarter and more sustainable way of living via a series of labs involving workshops, pitch nights, design residencies, exhibitions and collaborative projects.

Space10 isn’t a part of Ikea, it is owned and facilitated by Danish design firm, Rebel Agency, who first worked with Ikea on the Brakig furniture collection, which went on to be one of Ikea’s best-selling ranges.

The idea for the future-living lab came about when the founders of Rebel Agency, Carla Cammilla Hjort and Simon Caspersen, were asked to pitch new ideas to Ikea.

Instead of just creating a better future for Ikea, our starting point was asking how Ikea could help create a better future for the world,” Caspersen says. “So what we suggested was, let’s get rid of the whole client-agency model, have Ikea pay the basic fees and costs of running a space, and then devote ourselves to looking 10 or 20 years down the pipeline, and how Ikea can be relevant in that world.”

Space10 opened it’s doors in November 2015 and for a company used to innovating in secret, Space10 is revolutionary step forward for Ikea.  Although the costs of the operation are covered by Ikea and they have the first look at all the concepts that come out of it, the day-to-day operations are handled by Rebel Agency.  However, for Ikea, the benefits are the bold new ideas that come their way and the opportunity to bring them to market first.

The first exhibition at Space10 is called “The Fresh Living Lab” and showcases the work of a group of emerging designers who were invited to create 6 prototypes of everyday objects that would encourage better choices for the environment or personal health. Among the designs is a table that charges your phone by turning heat into electricity, and a chair that rewards you for exercising.

Whether or not the solutions are immediately relevant to our current business is not important” says Göran Nilsson, Ikea’s Concept Innovation Manager.  “What matters is to look in new directions and be ready to make changes”