Sustainable Materials - Amanda Jackson

By encouraging people to use products that are locally sourced or made from renewable or waste resources, they become more aware of where their products come from and the impact they have on the environment.

Also, buying things that are well made makes it possible to move away from a disposable society and to value and look after our natural resources more. The range of subjects within this series captures the eclectic and creative spirit of Brighton & Hove. Subjects include sustainable buildings, sustainable clothing, eco coffins and urns, artists who use so-called waste materials to make products, workshops which encourage children to get creative with used materials, cafes which teach people to mend their broken objects and finally Emmaus, the location selected for this exhibition, where people can show their support for the community of ex-homeless Companions whilst picking up an upcycled bargain.

Brighton & Hove is a vibrant city full of energy and this series of photographs shows how sustainable materials are being used in both practical and creative ways.

Essay Approach

So, when I first heard the term ‘sustainable materials’, what sprang to mind? Well, wood was what I first thought of but it isn’t as straight-forward as it seems. You would think that buildings made using wood must be more sustainable than buildings where types of plastics are used. But you also must consider where the wood has come from; is it local? has it travelled a great distance? is it sourced from trees that grow quickly and in abundance? And what about if plastic comes in the form of reclaimed vinyl banners, giving them a new purpose instead of ending up in landfill, surely that’s a good thing? Such are the ethical issues you have to consider when doing a project of this kind. I initially thought that for this series I would concentrate
on building work taking place in Brighton & Hove. This all changed when I met Cat Fletcher from Freegle, a wonder of information about the world of waste. From our discussions I learnt more about the reuse side of sustainable materials and when I told her I was primarily a portrait photographer, she said that was perfect because ‘reuse requires people’.

I have focused on showing how everyone can get involved with reuse, that it can be fun, creative and allow you to create individual pieces, buildings and artwork. The majority of the photographs are portraits, showing people using sustainable materials in Brighton & Hove. Additionally, landscape shots and still life compositions tell more of the story behind what the people are doing. My approach is to create fun, quirky, sometimes humorous shots that truly capture the energy of this dynamic movement in Brighton & Hove.

Exhibition info

This exhibition was held between 01/10/2014 and 31/07/2015 at Emmaus, Brighton & Hove


The Emmaus Brighton & Hove Community opened in 1997 and now provides a home and meaningful work for 48 Companions; men and women who have been formerly homeless. The site accommodates Companions as well as four out of the five Communities’ social enterprises.

There are three established businesses – the Secondhand Superstore which sells secondhand furniture and household goods, the Emporium which sells retro, vintage, collectable, handmade and upcycled goods and Café Revive, a meeting place for customers and visitors. A new garden shop, the Greenhouse at Emmaus opened in March 2013 and in July 2014 the shop, Emmaus by the Sea, opened in Southwick. This shop sells a selection of household goods and furniture and has a flat which houses three long term Companions.

The goods sold in the shops are all donated to us from our local residents, goods which would otherwise go to landfill. We like to think we are giving previously loved items the chance of a new
life – fitting with the ethos of recycling but also with the trend for reuse. Companions and volunteers repurpose and upcycle some of the goods for sale in our shops – furniture is given a shabby chic make-over, items are crafted out of discarded cutlery, ironware and garden pots, fabrics, yarns and trimmings are crafted into garments, bags, accessories… all in line with current high street trends.