Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh says he doesn’t wash his jeans—and that you shouldn’t either. Bumble and Bumble founder Michael Gordon launched a detergent-free hair care line, Purely Perfect, that doesn’t foam, and compares washing hair in the conventional way with throwing a cashmere sweater in the washing machine: “I honestly think in five years people are going to go, ‘Oh God, remember when we used to wash our hair with shampoo?’” he told Wired. Responding to drought, the California Energy Commission is supporting CO2 Nexus' development of a water-free washing machine that uses carbon dioxide to clean garments.
As sustainability becomes a priority for consumers, and they become more informed about chemicals in products, they are scrutinizing regular cleansing products and water-based washing, and making the connection between garment laundering and water waste.
Recycled fabrics and clothing are being reclaimed by innovative brands as cool. Denim brand G-Star has introduced RAW for the Oceans, a collection made from recycled plastic. Faherty, the cool surf line based in California, creates shorts made from recycled plastic. Patagonia’s new Truth to Materials range is made entirely from reclaimed or alternatively sourced fabrics, including cutting-room scraps that would otherwise have ended up in landfills. And Freitag, a clothing company based in Zürich, has created a chic biodegradable-textile brand.
Reuse has become aspirational, and brands are using innovative recycling strategies as a marketing platform.
A cycle revolution is occurring as more cities take up bike-share schemes and construct cycleways. From China to India to Los Angeles, sales of premium bicycles and accessories are growing, and environments from cafés to workspaces are being designed around the bike. In Europe, bike unit sales are now outstripping those of cars. Cycle commuters in the U.K. increased by 17% from 2001–2011, census data shows. London’s Barclays cycle-hire program continues to expand—there’s been a staggering 155% increase in cycling to work in inner London in the past decade. In the car- centric U.S., there are now bike-sharing programs in 36 cities, including Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Since 2007, there have been 23 million cycle-share rides in the U.S.
Consumers are starting to splurge on luxury bicycles and gear, and taking part in triathlons and cycling challenges. Halfords, the U.K.’s largest cycling retailer, reported sales of £939.7 million for the year to March 2014, an increase of 7.9%attributed largely to the appetite for premium cycles. Premium cult cycle brand Rapha, which sells upscale cycle wear and accessories and even runs Rapha cycling holidays, saw its revenue increase 56% last year to £28 million.
Now car brands are tapping in to cycle culture: Toyota recently released a luxury million-yen ($10,000) bicycle under its Lexus brand. Trendy bicycle workshop cafés are emerging—Rapha Cycle Clubs feature cafés, and Look Mum No Hands is a bike workshop and café in East London. Companies are also incorporating bicycle culture into the design of offices. Stockholm courier service Ryska Posten’s offices, designed by architecture studio Vida, resemble a city’s streets, with each meeting room separated by a bike path; staff are encouraged to cycle through the premises.
Many young urbanites are choosing not to buy expensive, polluting cars and instead simply rent them as needed, so a power shift from car to bicycle is emerging. Cycling is also becoming part of city culture–not just a means of getting from A to B but also a social pursuit and a leisure and holiday activity.
A rising crop of hospitality brands is rebranding reuse and waste-saving as hip. Renewable resources company Naturabiomat and Vera Wiedermann Designstudio created the Biomat pop-up restaurant for Vienna’s 2013 Design Week. Diners brought in bags of compostable material, and each kilo gained them a discount of €1. Nonprofits Rub & Stub in Copenhagen and Skipchen in Bristol both cook with donated surplus food. The Salvage Supperclub, which offered meals made from “unsaleable” food in Brooklyn during summer 2014, seated diners in a Dumpster.
Brothl in Melbourne offers nutritious broth made from bones discarded by top restaurants. Brothl launched as Silo by Joost and is run by sustainability enthusiast Joost Bakker, who designs his restaurants “back to front,” thinking first of waste and working backward. Bakker has also helped open a Silo zero-waste restaurant in Brighton, England; among other initiatives, the restaurant takes its deliveries in reusable vessels and recycles all scraps in a compost machine. “Doggie bags” were hardly known in France until recently, but now the French government has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the environmental impact of food waste—diners can request a sleekly designed “gourmet bag” to carry their leftovers home.
Consumers are more aware than ever of the food chain and its impact on the environment, and are starting to adjust their habits. Smart hospitality brands are making reuse not only palatable but aspirational.