Design With Benefits: See Amazing Sustainability

Design With Benefits, a pioneering new e-commerce website that promotes products and social efforts that use design to solve pressing global issues, launched earlier this year.

What do tote bags made by “homeboys”, art made by elephants, and jewelry made from salvaged auto parts all have to do with design and architecture? They are all projects that are part of a new movement that uses design in an effort to solve pressing social and environmental issues: design activism.

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Design With Benefits, is a first of its kind e-commerce site that focuses solely on products devoted to design activism, while promoting public interest design projects and advocating a model of ethical purchasing. Products on the site include tote bags by ex-gang members, unique elephant art created to benefit endangered Asian elephants, and copper jewelry made from a salvaged historic Frank Lloyd Wright roof. Additionally, the site gives back a percentage of net profits to one remarkable public interest project each month.

“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, founder of Design With Benefits.

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.

[caption id="attachment_109320" align="aligncenter" width="483"]DECOMOSAICO BY EZEQUIEL FARCA sustainable wooden wall tiles DECOMOSAICO BY EZEQUIEL FARCA sustainable wooden wall tiles[/caption]

Design With Benefits was born out of the challenges that Tania saw while working on architecture projects abroad - such as designing a school for disabled children in the Gobi desert in Mongolia and working with a top tier social architecture firm in Santiago, Chile. She felt that architecture and design were perfectly poised to help solve pressing social problems.

Design With Benefits embodies the following characteristics:

1.     Focuses on selling beautiful, clever, design-driven products and supporting efforts that are at the intersection of design, sustainability and social responsibility
2.     Features an online magazine promoting current news stories in the realm of design activism
3.     Makes beautiful design accessible by keeping prices affordable


Design With Benefits seeks to foster and encourage a model of ethical purchasing that includes environmental, economic and equitable sustainability and only partners with projects that share these values.


Each featured product carries one or more sustainability benefits inherent in its design. These benefits may lie in the problem that the product solves, in its recycled materials, how it was designed and manufactured, or in the positive effects it has on a community. Additionally, visitors to the site get to vote on 1 of 3 highlighted public interest projects to receive a percentage of net profits made from sales on the site.

About the Design With Benefits Team
Tania Garbe is the founder of Design With Benefits and the recipient of a 2012 Start-Up Chile technology grant. She is also co-founder of Design>Build>Ladakh, an academic design-build program located in India, where she constructed sustainable additions to a Himalayan school with Basic Initiative and London’s Arup Associates. She has co-designed a care center for disabled children in the Gobi desert of Mongolia, and worked at Elemental, the leading social architectural studio in Chile. Tania has a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Architecture from UC Berkeley and a Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin.

Creative Director Ida Polzer is an architect from Croatia, with degrees from the University of Zagreb, and the University of Texas at Austin where she earned her Masters of Architecture in sustainable design. Ida has worked on various architectural projects in Croatia and the US, and is the recipient of several scholarships, including the International Peace Scholarship from the Philanthropic Educational Organization. She has co-authored two publications, exploring methodologies for sustainable and contextual development of the Croatian coast.

Editor-in-Chief Eunice Kim is a multimedia journalist and a Chilean news reporter for The Santiago Times. She is the co-founder of the Harvard Undergraduate Maternal Health Initiative and has worked as the Manager of Policy and Ideas for a non-profit committed to providing young women in underserved communities with access to secondary education. Eunice studies international relations and psychology at Harvard University.

Learn more at:

Source: Design With Benefits

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