Deeply committed to both sustainability and innovation, Solgaard saves plastic from coastal areas and transforms it into stylish travel gear
The theft of a friend’s backpack got Adrian Solgaard thinking about how he could improve on the travel essential, which sparked an idea. What if you could create a rucksack with a solar panel and a power bank, so you could always charge your phone? And then add Bluetooth speakers, too – not only would it be good for the planet, it would also be extremely handy.
The idea of using displaced plastic pollution was added to the picture after a surf trip to Bali in 2017. Adrian saw a massive amount of plastic in the waves and on the beach and realised that making the bags from this waste could be the next step beyond solar panels.
The first Solgaard backpack made from ocean plastic was launched in 2018. “Collecting enough material wasn’t hard – but cleaning it for use in fabrics was a massive challenge,” says Adrian. “We keep exploring how we can do good for the world as we go, always looking to do more.”
On top of what recycled content goes into the product, for every Solgaard product sold, 6lb of plastic pollution is cleaned up from coastal communities. In addition, the items are highly innovative – for instance, luggage with built-in “closets”. Adrian says the company is driven by the need to create products that address a problem consumers have, while being well-made.
“To me, luxury should include excellent quality and performance,” says Adrian. “Something that sets us apart is that sustainability runs through to our core.” As well as its plastic efforts, the company designs for circularity, opts for low-carbon shipping and invests in scientific research on improving biodiversity in coastal communities, where the materials are collected. “In Indonesia, where we’re collecting plastic, the mangroves are looking healthier and the birds and fish are coming back,” Adrian says. “It is rewarding to see.”
Based in New York, Solgaard sells direct to consumers in the US and Canada, with plans to expand to Europe and the UK. It is launching several new products, including a recycled aluminium luggage range, and several other material innovations are in development and testing.
“I hope we can serve as an inspiration for others as to how much good can be done by a business,” says Adrian. “We want to continue being that example and get louder about our impact work, while accelerating in inventing new products.”