Credit: Courtesy of Zeoform

Cellulose is the most pervasive natural polymer on the planet. A primary structural material of plants, cellulose is essentially a long chain of connected sugars, and is used in paper and textile production. We typically think of soft, fibrous materials like cotton or wood pulp when we consider cellulose—however, an Australian company has figured a way to turn it into a hard material.

Made from nothing but cellulose fiber and water, Zeoform is promoted as a much more desirable alternative to petroleum-based plastics, which are derived from fossil fuels and persist in the environment long after their useful life. As a completely bio-based material, Zeoform is completely nontoxic and compostable.

Featured at this month's Green Festival in Los Angeles, Zeoform launched a $1 million campaign on the crowdsourced funding website Indiegogo on Oct. 11. The company is raising funds to build a manufacturing and education center.

Despite the downsides of conventional plastic, it remains an inexpensive and desirable commodity. Thus, Zeoform's success will hinge on its ability not only to raise funding but also ensure that its patented cellulose conversion process is cost-competitive and less energy-intensive than the production of conventional plastic. Moreover, the public's acceptance of biodegradable chair—although desirable from an environmental standpoint—while require a cultural readjustment.

Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.