Community, creativity, conservation; Sarah Murray on a new exhibition that uses design to highlight green issues

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"With these projects, the final result is always so different from the preconceived notion I may have at the start," he explains. "What I realised there in the rainforest" - studying cocoa harvesting and processing among the Bribri women of the remote La Amistad mountain region - "is that I should simply use the culture of the community to develop the project. Cocoa is used as a drink for engagements and childbirth and [other] community celebrations."

Moreover, while many of the participants - drawn from the worlds of fashion, industry and furniture - have interests in social and environmental issues, they were not necessarily chosen for their green credentials but for their leading-edge designs and wide range of styles and interests. "We wanted people who were patrons of the art world, people who let their imagination fly, people who never at other times think about conservation to now think about conservation," says Sanjayan Muttulingam, lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy. "The purpose is to make the tent bigger - to bring people in and to begin a conversation about where the objects they surround themselves with come from."

Ezri Tarazi, an Israeli furniture designer, did not go to China for his project but studied his material, bamboo, and its native environment closely. And, though he had initially worked up some designs based on thin, elongated elements, he "completely rethought the project" once he received the bamboo in Israel and discovered it was the thickness of a small tree. "That was a surprise," says [Ellen Lupton]. "People had to be very flexible."