In this age of innovators, it’s no surprise to see new materials emerge. But it is exciting to see how luxuray brands are embracing sustainable alternatives to create high-end, beautiful products.

From bamboo bedding to recycled bicycles, its clear that the current market is ready to embrace a new view of sustainability—expanding the potential to design products from discarded and alternative materials.

As further evidence of a society primed for sustainability, The Global Optimism Outlook Survey released last week, revealed that Australians place sustainability and conservation at the top of their priorities for the future (a trend shared by most countries). According to the study Aussies think sustainability and natural resource conservation are most important for the future with 71% listing plastic-free oceans and 57% listing sustainable infrastructure as the future changes they most want to see. Even hot-topic developments like artificial intelligence and 5G network technology take a backseat in comparison to sustainability.

For a circular-economy to succeed there needs to be a level of asthetic appeal and novelty to the end product. It’s hard to convince people that trash can become treasure without first showing them what’s possible. The tipping point for pollution and over-consumption could be on the horizon if we can reclaim wasted resources through reinvention.

Seeing the potential of alternative materials is part of the equation, but we still need to make things that people don’t want to throw away—art is a good example of this, as are unique or quality items which retain their value and appeal.

Most of us want to embrace sustainable consumerism but remain confused about what can and can’t be recycled. Take for instance bioplastics, most of which are made with Polylactic Acid (PLA) typically derived from plant starches or algae. Bioplastics are compostable since microbes can breakdown the material in biomass under the right conditions. As a result the volume of visible pollution is diminished however, as an acid it will also raise the pH level of surrounding soil having a toxic effect on the environment.

The solution could be to view trash as a resource rather than refuse.

Architect and engineer, Arthur Huang is a proponent for smart trash and a pioneer of circular-economy. The founder of MINIWIZ, Huang and his team of designers and engineers, envision a smarter way to recycle through reinvention. Twelve years ago they built TRASHLAB, the world’s only laboratory dedicated exclusively to unlocking the upcycling potential of this abundant but deeply damaging resource. Since then they have successfully created over 1200 sustainable materials and developed an AI smart recycling system—turning consumers into recyclers.

Incentivizing consumers to participate gets people thinking about the environment.

MINIWIZ found a clever way to do just that by opening an Exchange pop-up store where shoppers could only get recycled products from the store if they brought in plastic to be repurposed, as the shop doesn’t accept money.

Located in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, the pop-up sells items made in-store from donated materials, including plastic water bottles, take-away coffee cups, and shopping bags. Shoppers get credit for new products, including colourful tiles and lamp shades, by giving post-consumer waste to be ground down and repurposed.

Repurposed products are on display alongside plastic waste items. Source: www.Dezeen.com

The value of recycling has long been a part of Nespresso’s consumer culture, integrating systems which make it easy for people to return their used coffee capsules. With 19,000 collection points in Australia (including at participating florists and Nespresso boutiques), plus the ability to order a bulk recycling box for your community, or a satchel for return via Australia Post—Nespresso actively encourage consumer participation through an efficient and elegant process.

As a luxuray brand Nespresso is interested in elevating sustainablity through Second Life creations. Their latest collaboration with Swedish lifestyle bike brand, Vélosophy resulted in RE:CYCLE, a Limited Edition bicycle made from recycled Nespresso aluminium capsules.

Jimmy Östholm, CEO and Founder of Vélosophy introduces Limited Edition bike made from recycled Nespresso aluminum capsules.
Jimmy Östholm, CEO and Founder of Vélosophy in collaboration with Nespresso introduce the Limited Edition RE:CYCLE bike—an icon of circular economy design. Photo: Nespresso

Vélosophy have re-imagined their classic model in bright purple as a nod to Nespresso’s popular Arpeggio coffee. RE:CYCLE also features a capsule-shaped bell and a steam-bended oak carrier basket with two cup holders, so you can take your coffee to go.

Founded in Stockholm in 2015, it is the only bicycle brand in the world with a one-for-one promise—supporting young schoolgirls in Ghana by donating a bicycle for every Vélosophy sold. The brand aims to be the first choice for any urban cyclist looking for aesthetic and well-designed bicycles and accessories. As part of that ambition Vélosophy produce all of its bicycles using recycled aluminium, one of the world’s most sustainable and high-performing materials. And collaborate with some of the most innovative lifestyle brands to design and develop smart, good looking and meaningful products. Products with social impact that support a healthy lifestyle and are manufactured with future generations in mind. 

But sustainable luxury is not just about upcycling or recycling, it’s also about utilizing alternative materials which reduse our impact on the environment.

Ecosa, is a luxury bedding company utilizing bamboo as an alternative to cotton and other fabrics which place a high demand on our natural resources. Their sustainable ethos champions the environmental and health benefits of bamboo. As the world’s fastest-growing plant, the prolific nature of this tropical grass has made it a global commodity for a variety of product categories including: clothing and apparel, bedding, toiletries, skincare, body and hair, and food and health. As of 2005, the exporting of raw bamboo to be used for manufacturing reached $US89 million and has been growing ever since.

Bamboo has significant environmental benefits including that it is renewable, plentiful and has an extensive root system, allowing it to constantly replenish itself. Photo: Kal Visuals / Unsplash

I spoke with Ringo Chan, founder of Ecosa to explore some of the unique properties of bamboo bedding, and how the business is working to transform the lives of millions whilst doing there bit for the planet.

What makes bamboo a good material for bedding products?

Bamboo’s natural softness and antibacterial properties make it the perfect bedding material. Unlike cotton, you don’t need high thread counts to achieve that buttery soft luxury look and feel. Bamboo is breathable and won’t trap unwanted heat at night. Bamboo doesn’t absorb the oils from your skin, either, keeping even the whitest sheets looking fresh for years to come. 

How is the fibre utilized in your products and where are its key benefits (warmth, structure, allergens, durability)?

Our bamboo bedding is made with a sateen weave, which unlike a twill weave, sees three threads over one, rather than one under one over. This allows for a greater surface area and premium softness with breathability. Bamboo is hypoallergenic, making it ultra-gentle on sensitive skin, and its natural properties help it adapt to your body’s thermoregulation systems. It’s the ideal fabric for hot and cold sleepers.

What percentage of sleep disorders stems from allergies?

It’s hard to know exactly, but as many as 50% of people suffer from allergies at some point in their lives. This can impact your quality of sleep due to breathing difficulties, itching and overall fatigue from your body’s immune response.

What are the challenges to sourcing, production, and marketing (consumer awareness/interest) bamboo bedding?

We use the Cerro Compact Spinning method to create the best bamboo bedding we can. Our SGS report shows our piling resistance meets class 4 under the ASTM and AATCC guidelines, which is part of what we do to make a long lasting, high quality product. By manufacturing bedding that lasts, we can work to reduce textile waste as sheets will be replaced less frequently. 

What percentage of your products are made from bamboo?

Our bed sheets are 100% bamboo.

Are the other materials also sustainable (dyes, etc.)?

Our bamboo bedding is Oeko-Tex certified meaning it meets the standards required to be completely safe to human health. Our dying process are optimised to recycle and reduce the amount of water required during production.

Which products are your top sellers?

Our mattress is still our top seller—it’s our hero product. That said our bamboo sheets are becoming increasingly popular and they make a great gift idea. 

What is the lifespan and recyclability of Ecosa products?

Our products are designed to go the long haul. Our solid timber bed bases and bedside tables can last a lifetime, while bamboo and silk bedding are stronger and more durable than polyester options, making them a longer lasting option. 

The zen comfort of Ecosa bedding is a perfect example of sustainable luxury.
The zen comfort of Ecosa bedding is a perfect example of sustainable luxury. Photo: Ecosa

Between the bamboo: my experience sleeping on sustainable bedding by Ecosa.

Ecosa have been designing luxury sleep solutions since 2015, using intelligent ergonomic designs that work for your body. From a one-for-all mattress to silky and breathable bamboo sheets, simple and beautiful sleep experiences are what they do best.

I tried out Ecosa’s bed topper to see how it would fair on my dads 50 year-old latex mattress, now more akin to a hammock with its sunken center. The elevated height of the bed took some getting used to but the deep comfort and support it provided surprised me. I had anticipated the dip from the mattress undernearth would reveal itself under my weight but the topper held its bouyant form, providing excellent support. If you don’t have the funds for a new mattress but need to fill a hole, cover some lumps, bulk up the padding etc… then Ecosa’s topper is a great option. Simple comfort which could be used as a thin futon, in the sleeping loft of a tiny house, on camping and caravan trips or as a plush pad for a movie night under the stars!

Ecosa’s pillow arrived in a resealable vac-pack (perfect for travel), it also included extra pads making it adjustable. This ability to customise comfort and contour is unique to their ergonomic design, as is the alternative material used to create the breathable 3D structure. The pillow is made from activated charcoal memory foam (MF) which promotes odour control and antibacterial protection. The heat dispersion is better than other MF pillows I’ve tried but it still holds more body heat than an standard latex pillow. Having said that, this is by far the most comfortable pillow I have ever slept on.

Light warmth from a Silk quilt? The snuggle factor of silk is a little known secret which Ecosa have woven into their range of quilts. Premium silk floss (like the cobweb candy you buy at carnivals) in strands of up to 20cm is layered to deliver warmth without weight. As someone who feels the cold even under several layers of thermals, I was impressed with the deceptively thin comforter. Not only was it a delight to sleep under, it also kept me warm on nights when the temperature hovered just above zero°. Their quilts come in two weights 300 and 500 (GSM) which can be combined to accomodate colder seasons.

Ecosa silk quilts are made using high quality natural silk, which doesn’t contribute to the production of fossil fuels or release any toxic nasties to you or the environment.
Ecosa silk quilts are made using high quality natural silk, which doesn’t contribute to the production of fossil fuels or release any toxic nasties to you or the environment. Photo: Ecosa

Linen you will love. Ecosa’s bamboo and silk sheets and pillow cases have a zen beauty to them. The range evokes luxury through smart and minimal design, with toggles to keep your duvet in place and a rich pallet of both subtle and vivid colours to choose from. Of equal value is the naturally hypoallergenic properties of the fabrics and environmentally-conscious manufacturing processes which Ecosa employ. Allergies can impact sleep and we often aren’t aware just how much. Comfort aside, I found it easier to breath and fall asleep wrapped in Ecosa linens.

Because convenience is still a high priority for consumers, Ecosa provide easy returns but with one major difference—they donate your returned mattress to those in need. This could be considered a different interpretation of circular-economy, one which has benefited over 5000 people in need through Ecosa’s partnership with The Salvation Army and smaller local charities. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to give bamboo bedding a 1000 night trial knowing that, if I was disatsified for any reason my returned goods would go to someone less fortunate and not become landfill.

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Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.