TGL Trends: Prepare to be BAMBOOzled by bamboo, pineapple and algae

Damian Clarke

algae-based foam for their shoes
YY Nation is using algae-based foam for their shoes.

So much sustainability in one shoe

If you wear clothes or sleep on sheets you probably recognise the silky breathability of bamboo fabric. Now, New Zealand shoemaker, YY Nation has taken the sustainable fashion game up a notch with an Indiegogo campaign to make sneakers made from bamboo, pineapple leather, algae foams and merino wool. The shoes were inspired by YY Nation founder, Jeremy Bank, finding plastic waste, including a shoe, while walking on the beach in Maui, Hawaii, with his daughter. He set out on a quest to use natural materials and waste to create sustainable, stylish, comfortable and high-quality sneakers (Disclosure here: while researching this article I bought a pair. I’ll review them when they arrive in April.)

From shoes to furniture – Pinatex used as upholstery ‘leather’

Shoes are not the only place we’re seeing pineapple-based leather.

Pinatex leather was invented by Dr Carmen Hijosa as a way to use the pineapple leaves discarded from the Philippine pineapple harvest. About 470 pineapple leaves create a square metre of “vegan leather”. The material has been enthusiastically embraced by fashion designers for its durability over other synthetic leathers and its ability to take dye. It has also been popular in small applications like watch straps, bags, shoes and even dog leads and coats for some time.

Now, New Zealand designer, Ly Zadie has become one of the few furniture makers around the world using it in luxury upholstery. Her stunning Tui Armchair retails for NZ$15,000.

Bamboo and sugar cane – from footwear to food

In addition to shoes, bamboo and sugar cane are the new black for food packaging. Astonished by the amount of single-use plastic used in US food sales, Hongli (Julie) Zhu and her team at Northwestern University developed a plant-based version that totally biodegrades within 60 days.

Given recent research that shows eco-based plastics contain similar toxic chemicals to synthetic ones, a totally biodegradable plastic food packaging is good news.

In a similar vein, Australian brand, Emondo Kids offers an alternative to disposable cups and cutlery with its reusable bamboo Eco Cups and an Eco Cuttlery Set made from wheat straw.

Algae-EVA foam scaling up from shoes to larger surfaces

The algae-based EVA foam used by YY Nation and Billabong for shoes is beginning to scale-up to larger applications. BLOOM algae-based EVA was created when Ryan Hunt investigated how to use algae to remove phosphorous and ammonia from industrial and agricultural waste. He discovered that heat, pressure and time transform the protein-rich algae into a plastic. BLOOM™ EVA foam is has now scaled-up to use in the deck pads of Sea Lion stand-up paddleboards. Increased production and the accompanying decrease in price could see algae-EVA foams used in building applications.