Whether your desk was made from the wing of a B-25 bomber or your carpet once touched the lips of hundreds as plastic bottles, eco-friendly design these days is anything but dull. The trend for reusing, restoring and reincarnating things to keep them out of landfills has given designers a playing field limited only by the imagination - and design fans the chance to hone their creative urges. The 'found object' approach emerged in art towards the beginning of the last century, but came later in design, where only lately has it served a loftier purpose. At the London Design Festival a few years ago a show called Trash Luxe claimed to be about finding beauty in unexpected, often dark, dank places, but even so, many of its exhibits had a wholesome aura. This was where the Campana Brothers introduced work from their alliance with Design with Conscience, which pairs grass-roots artisans with top designers. Their TransNeomatic bowl seats married abandoned scooter tyres from Vietnam with woven wicker. Stuart Haygarth and Paul Cocksedge wowed design buffs with chandeliers made out of plastic sea flotsam and polystyrene cups respectively. The message was that high design could look good and help clean up the planet. The half bathtub in Breakfast at Tiffany's may well be the coolest sofa in cinematic history, but it needed Britain's Reestore team to give the idea green-cred. Like Max, their bathtub chaise, or Silvana, a best-selling coffee table made from the innards of washing machines, Reestore's contemporary eco-products have either recycling capabilities or were rescued from a less noble fate in a rubbish dump. In Brazil, surfer Carlos Motta was aeons ahead of his time when he began to make furniture in the 70s using driftwood he collected along the shore in Sao Paulo, with the express aim of having a 'lesser environmental impact'. His collection has expanded to include recycled wood, demolition salvage and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified timber. And the ideas are getting bolder. A lamp made of cow dung by Swedes Karin Frankenstein and Tomas Auran and bookcases made of freight pallets by the Netherlands' Studio Elmo Vermijs were two prototypes spotted at this year's top international furniture fairs in Milan and Cologne. In Los Angeles Donovan Fell III and his design team at MotoArt urge customers to join the mile-high club 'without the hassle of going to the airport' in a bed made from two DC-9 rear stabilisers and a C-130 inner flap. Their GE-747 Cowling Desk is no less inventive: MotoArt split the engine cowling of a KLM 747 in half, doubling them up into a reception desk with a bamboo top. But though this flair for interior reincarnation has produced some of the world's most cutting-edge design products, rebirth doesn't always have to be so dramatic - and neither need it give us bland, beige, wholesome-looking furniture. The Best Eco Product Award at the London Design Festival a few years ago went to Peter Masters' Final Stand, a light, sleek dining table with legs made of recycled local wood finished with a vinegar stain and non-toxic Tung oil, and a tabletop in partially recycled glass. 'I want to show that you can make work that is desirable but does not cost the earth or harm it either,' said the young designer. IMM Cologne this year featured the refined Torno side table in eco-friendly faux quartz by Germany's Draenert Studio and the Vitruv table from French manufacturer Seltz's, the legs of which are made of waste wood remnants, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Websites such as that of Vivavi, a Brooklyn-based company, work hard to offer environmentally sound furniture that won't test your sense of beauty. The products are chic and affordable and use non-toxic glues and recycled materials with coatings of zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and manufactured in wind- and solar-powered production facilities. ''Sacrifice environmentalism' is a really lousy brand marketing concept,' says Vivavi founder Josh Dorfman, who followed up his book, The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living, with The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget. 'I want green options that are cool or save me money or make me healthier. I'm more apt to bring a reusable shopping bag with me to the store if the bag is stylish, convenient and/or funny.' But should any of you be looking at these products and getting out your credit card, put it back; airlifting a sofa from Brooklyn does not an eco-friendly shopper make and the best you can do for your environment is to support local design. This summer David Ng launched his first line of modern furniture pieces made from salvaged wood at the Wittgenstein Editions Gallery in Central. The pieces are unglazed, unglued and crafted with traditional nailless joints, making them eco-friendly. Also reusing timber from demolished buildings on the mainland is Keith Lau at Woodshop and Nicole Wakley at Tree received the ultimate endorsement when National Geographic fitted out its flagship stores with her upscale FSC-certified and recycled range. Yet even she had to overcome the resistance to 'used' products often found in Hong Kong. Business picked up significantly, she says, when she stopped promoting the line as 'recycled' and called it 'eco-chic'. However, designers here are still on the first few rungs of the ladder. Last month, at the invitation of the Hong Kong Design Centre, Paul Eilbracht, a designer, researcher and bio-materials inventor from the Netherlands, held a workshop on the next steps in sustainable design. 'I'm trying to get participants to convert their own products into cradle-to-cradle designs and they're seeing how easy it isn't,' he says, referring to the framework developed by American architect William McDonough. 'They're finding that you can upgrade your recycling product, that it should be more modular, easier to take apart and reuse. You don't want just to recycle something into a paperweight.' The infrastructure to recycle, he hopes, will grow up around the pioneers. But what to do until then? Most designers admit that reusing what one already has is the best step anyone can take to green their space - so try reupholstering worn furniture, transforming your old bathroom ceramics with epoxy paint or restoring and refinishing your old teak parquet flooring rather than buying more. Or you could take it a little further: at the Design For A Dollar show at New York's International Contemporary Furniture Fair in May young designers proved how simply exciting design could be created, with pieces that included a sexy retro lampshade made from an apple juice bottle and a felted sweater arm and stylish stools made from rolled up magazines. When times are tight, it's good to know that saving the Earth doesn't cost it.