It should come as no surprise that Kohler associates, like so many of us, are passionate about the environment, preoccupied with the climate crisis, and searching for ways to have a positive impact. In fact, what began as the waste-to-value project of a dedicated group of associates has grown into the KOHLER WasteLAB®, where recycled materials are transformed into meaningful new products. Most recently, the KOHLER WasteLAB launched the Abstra Collection, which contributes to a circular economy and is an example of Kohler's commitment to achieving net-zero waste to landfill by 2035.
“Investing in Our Planet,” the theme of this year’s Earth Day, isn’t new to Kohler. Since John Michael Kohler’s founding of the company and with each successive generation, honoring the natural world and preserving its wild spaces has been a core value. Today, as the impacts of climate change intensify, we continue to drive our sustainability strategy forward. But we don’t stop there.
Integral to the attitude that keeps Kohler focused on the future is a belief that our best can always be better: better for the lives we touch, better for our communities, better for our planet, and better for business. Believing in Better® is the philosophy foundational to our social impact and sustainability efforts. It’s the impetus behind our in-house incubator, Innovation for Good®, which invests in business ideas with a social purpose, such as the WasteLAB, proposed by associates from across the company.
As Kohler’s Director of Innovation for Good & Sustainability Ratish Namboothiry remarked, “From its humble, sustainable roots as a start-up business in Kohler’s Innovation for Good program, the WasteLAB is helping Kohler deliver on its commitment to a better planet in that we are mitigating waste to landfill.” By applying nature’s regenerative cycles to our manufacturing processes, the WasteLAB and the new Abstra Collection continue to set Kohler on a path to meet the ambitious sustainability goals we’ve set.
The resounding success of the WasteLAB as a waste-to-value platform is evident in the enthusiastic response to our inaugural product launch in 2019. The award-winning Crackle Collection is loved by the design community and celebrated for its sustainable and scalable approach to source material. Similarly, the Abstra Collection is handcrafted from nearly 100% recycled waste materials. This includes pottery wastewater, excess glaze, and slag scraped from molten iron.
The finished product truly represents the relationship between art and sustainability. Showcasing the raised and relief designs of Abstra Feature and the subtle undulating surfaces of Abstra Standard, the highly tactile collection invites creativity in vision and design. Senior Kohler Designer Dana Morales describes the collection in this way, “Abstra is a natural object. In style, it is inspired by the natural play of light and shadow on pattern. In substance, it is inspired by the circularity of nature."
So, what’s next for the WasteLAB? More seeing value where others see waste, more experimentation, more believing in better. For our associates, the goal of the KOHLER WasteLAB is to promote a culture of sustainability through waste-to-value conversion platforms, education, and outreach to inspire innovation and waste reduction at other Kohler facilities. For architects, designers, and consumers, our goal is to offer environmentally conscious products that align beautifully with their values and their aesthetics.
Looking to learn more about the Abstra Collection by KOHLER WasteLAB? The collection is sold by ANN SACKS and you can learn more here.