Eco Design Fair: Designing a more sustainable Shanghai

Eco Design Fair: Designing a more sustainable Shanghai

No need to don flannel and Birkenstocks, this biannual event brings together the best of green tech and modern design
Shanghai Eco design fair
The Eco Design Fair proves that even your kitchen basics can be green and sustainable.

“What’s this thing?” one elderly resident of Jianshan neighborhood asks another pointing to produce labeled "organic."

“Isn’t everything in the world organic?” questions the second.

Sherry Poon, Eco Design Fair founder, recalls this perplexed exchange she overheard at the last bi-annual fair with a smile.

"This is one of the main purposes of the Eco Design Fair," she says, "to educate the local community. It’s an opportunity for the Shanghai community to come together and learn about sustainability."

Shanghai Eco design fair - kidsLocal design students gave hands-on education to last year's Shanghai Eco Design Fair visitors.

Mother of all trades

Poon, a Canada native with nine years tenure in Shanghai, is a one-woman show for all things sustainable. An architect by trade, Poon has worked on low-income housing and sustainability on three continents.

After the birth of her first child, however, Poon’s focus shifted as she began looking for earth-conscious products for her family. In the process, she started wobabybasics, an organic children’s clothing company.

“I couldn’t just be a stay at home mom,” Poon says. “Sustainability was one of my passions and what I’d always been doing.”

Only a few months after wobaby hit stores, the mother/architect/fashion designer launched the Eco Design Fair.

“I think there’s a need for both visitors who want to find eco products and for vendors who need a platform to show their things to the public,” explains Poon. 

Two years later, the bi-annual event has become a staple in Shanghai’s green culture with a host of businesses participating and crowds attending, ranging from expat families to local design students and inquisitive locals getting their first taste of sustainable design.

This is one of the main purposes of the Eco Design Fair to educate the local community. It’s an opportunity for the Shanghai community to come together and learn about sustainability.— Sherry Poon, Eco Design Fair founder

Poon points out that although this is bringing together sectors of the city involved in green design and sustainability, not all the companies are 100 percent green.

“The idea is that we’re sourcing companies that are trying to make a change. It doesn’t have to be their entire company.”

Intelligent design

Design is just as fundamental a part of the fair as sustainability. Robert Hartmann, who sells hand made bamboo bicycles through his company Shanghai Bamboo Bike, believes eco products need to appeal to the general public not just the earth conscious. 

“For large-scale green initiatives and solutions to work, especially in Shanghai, they need to be both economically feasible and to some extent fashionable,” says Hartmann.

From A00’s low-toxicity wood furniture to Rap’s “no grumble” organic cotton and bamboo children’s bedding, the products at the fair are all thoughtfully crafted.

“Everything we make, we want kids to really like the feel and look of," says Sara Naumann, Rap’s co-founder. "It’s amazing to see how our own kids love it.”

In the next year, Poon hopes to continue developing a platform for eco-designers in Shanghai as she and her board look to start a social enterprise, and also assemble Shanghai’s first Green Maps, tracking the city's green living resources.

Nov. 6 (Eco Design Fair) 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nov. 7 (The Wellness Works), Jiashan Market, No. 37, Lane 550 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Jianguo Xi Lu 陕西南路550弄37号, 建国西路, +86 21 6247 0577,