When does sustainability become greenwashing? | Interview with Sally Hogarth

Sally Hogarth is a multi-disciplinary sustainable artist who specialises in brand experience. She recently collaborated with Space and Discarded Spirits Co. to create a free-standing sculpture made entirely of waste from UK beaches and local bars. Set in fully reusable bio resin, the piece seduced guests via a striking light-filled effect.

The sculpture was the centrepiece of Discarded’s zero-waste event ’The World’s Most Rubbish Bar’, and became a physical embodiment of the brand’s ‘Waste Is Beautiful’ concept. Featured during a sold-out weekend during London Cocktail Week, the experience was a cultural examination of the potential of what we throw away, exploring how waste can be reframed into something beautiful.

In the wake of the experience, we interviewed Sally about her work – looking closely at the positive influence brands and campaigns like The World’s Must Rubbish Bar can create for an entire sector, but also exploring the dangers of greenwashing and lack of planning.

As an industry and society, there’s no doubt we’re facing a pivotal moment where we must shift old habits and adapt. But, as Discarded and Sally have shown us, change does not have to be at the expense of beauty.

Our concept for Discarded’s experience centred around reframing the beauty of waste. What got you excited about that concept and how did it affect your thinking? 

The circular economy of Discarded’s product range has a great synergy with some of my most recent artworks. In particular, the idea of taking waste from one context, creating something relevant to another, and the statement this transition can make.

Your sculpture was a critical part of that story. Going deeper into the inspiration behind it, what message do you want people to take away?

It’s about creating work that from a distance is beautiful and compelling, to draw the viewer in – only to discover that on closer inspection it is made from waste. As such, I want to inspire people of the possibilities of waste, and how it can be transformed.

Creatively, what makes design from waste more interesting compared to more conventional design?

 When I taught art classes to children, I found when they had the full run of the arts and crafts store, they conformed to each material’s intended use. However, when they were limited to using only one medium, they began to channel unexpected creativity.

Similarly, the challenge of creating from waste adds limitations, through which resourceful creativity can thrive.

Sustainability has become a fundamental part of so many brands’ identities. However, we’re seeing a lot of greenwashing, and it’s a concern for many of us. What’s your biggest frustration and what can brands do to avoid this and drive real change?

Sustainability needs to factor in total environmental cost. Consumers increasingly see through tokenistic gestures that say the right words, but fail to take meaningful action. An experience that talks about sustainability whilst neglecting sustainable practices is plainly hypocritical. 

Brands that thoughtfully consider, and build in, sustainable practices into all aspects of their business models and supply chains will generate a more meaningful relationship with the environment, and with customers who care deeply about sustainability principles and practices.  

In the past, experiential events have been marred by unsustainable practices – water bottles, single-use coffee cups, plastic installations, etc. – are events like this marking a turning point in the industry? How would you like advertisers and creative agencies to help turn the tide?

An important question to ask is – how can advertisers and creative agencies help turn the tide, ensuring all future brand experiences are sustainable?


Lack of time is one of the biggest causes of waste. The convenience of speed creates excess. Brands commissioning these events need to consciously extend project timelines to enable sustainability. Time to experiment creates the opportunity to invent new ways of working, sustainably. Building time into installation and design allows objects to be cleaned and sorted for reuse, rather than throwing those objects away in the rush to vacate a venue. Time to build connections and relationships allows for elements to be sourced, channelled and reused meaningfully.

Looking back at your experience working on this concept, what have you taken away and how do you think it will impact your practice moving forward?

The intentional design practice of taking materials intended for one use; applying them to fulfil the purpose of the piece, and simultaneously designing a second life beyond the experience of the artwork. We can create art that consciously references its own temporary state: paused in a moment between previous and future forms and uses.

Sally Hogarth Studio is a multi-disciplinary, internationally recognised design studio.

Specialising in spatial design, the practice prides itself on its collaborative, 360° approach, allowing solution-focussed, intrinsically creative design, to produce moving and memorable spatial experiences.

Working directly with clients as well as alongside agencies, the studio is made up of a diverse range of creatives with backgrounds in art, architecture, and set design. This diversity allows the studio to tell stories and react to briefs in a uniquely bespoke way.

Following the event, the bio-resin tiles became drinks coasters gifted to partner bars. As such, the artwork transformed and lived on, beyond the event.

Discover more: http://sallyhogarth.com/

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