Ever feel like every day is an internal and external battle against throwaway culture? I do. It even extends to our pets!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming consumers. I never do.
Everything we do day-to-day here in the UK – everything – is set up to make it easier to choose cheaply made, disposable products that ultimately break and need to be replaced.
That’s why I always champion businesses that do their bit for the planet.
I was intrigued when Emma from Barka Parka reached out to me to see if I’d like to attend their launch event for a new range of dog beds that, rather than being filled with polystyrene beans, contain BioFoam instead.
I thought, here’s something I haven’t obsessed over yet: the plastic in dog beds!
Why consider an eco friendly dog bed?
These dog beds are built to last to the same design that’s been in use since the 1970s.
When I attended the launch on 31 July this year I got chatting (of course) to Janet – one of the company’s founders, who started Barka Parka in Australia in 1979 with her sisters Janet and Marion.
How many people just go to the pet shop and buy the first dog bed they can find? The dog hates it, and ends up chewing it to pieces. They’re made of the cheapest synthetic materials. And, they’re hideous!
I know exactly what she means. I’ve bought two rubbish dog beds for our little dog. And they really are rubbish: when we’re long gone they’ll be in landfill somewhere, taking centuries to break down.
The beauty of these beds is that dogs actually like them. They’re durable: unlike the rubbish I’ve bought in the past. And, since Janet and Brenda now live here (Marion has sadly passed away), the beds are also made in the UK.
Janet and Brenda may have handed over the reins to Emma and Richard, but they were still keen to show me one of their first beds (circa 1976).
Still going strong, the bed was complete with a lolling pooch who had to be shifted off the bed temporarily, to demonstrate that, after more than 40 years, the only damage was a tiny hole in the bed’s removable outer cover.
What’s changed at Barka Parka?
Barka Parka has been going strong for 40+ years. Emma and Richard haven’t been at the helm for long – they took over in January this year – but already they’re making an impact.
They’ve taken these instantly recognisable beds (which have found their way into several prestigious homes) and updated the range in one crucial way that couldn’t be more on-point for 2019.
Now, they’re offering a more eco friendly dog bed that, instead of the usual polystyrene, is filled with groundbreaking BioFoam.
Doing so hasn’t been easy – or cheap. Sourced in the Netherlands, this revolutionary BioFoam is the first of its kind on the market. It’s fully bio-based, carbon neutral and eco friendly to produce.
At the end of its life, it can be industrially composted or transformed into PLA – Polylactic Acid. PLA is derived from renewable sources such as sugarcane, and has a wide range of uses including ‘films, bottles and medical devices’.
The huge benefit of PLA as a bioplastic is its versatility and the fact that it naturally degrades when exposed to the environment.Creative Mechanisms
If you’re a Plastic Free Spirit, fossil fuel-derived polystyrene probably makes you wince.
According to Recyclenow:
Polystyrene is a type of plastic which is not commonly recycled… Expanded polystyrene should be placed in the waste bin.
Most bean bags are filled with – you guessed it – expanded polystyrene, or EPS.
While BioFoam does still require industrial composting, crucially, it’s not sourced from fossil fuel polymers.
Emma and Richard had their work cut out sourcing it from suppliers who are used to fulfilling much larger orders, but they persevered, and the BioFoam was delivered to the team’s rural Somerset workshop just before the launch party.
About the Barka Parka dog bed design
The outer layer is a removable, elasticated polycotton cover. The inner is a round, flat bean bag that dogs find undeniably comfy (the pooches at the launch were testament to this).
The option to fill your dog bed with a greener alternative to polystyrene feels like a natural next step.
What does the future look like for Barka Parka?
Barka Parka beds are made in Butleigh, Somerset (also home to the wonderful Naked Pantry), and plans for the future include more of the same – handmade, British dog beds of quality, with a three year warranty.
Since they took over in January, Richard and Emma have also launched Stormhound – durable, high-end dog coats – built for longevity.
When I asked Emma whether they wanted to make the dog bed covers from fully natural fibres in the future, she said:
We’re trying! We were in talks with a company in Lancashire that supplies durable waxed cotton. But the quantities that we’d need to order make it impossible for us at the moment.
Instead, Emma says they’re looking to their packaging next – with plans to deliver their dog beds in less wasteful materials.
Emma and Richard are also selling the BioFoam beans, so if you have a bean bag at home that’s looking a bit flat, or a craft project that needs beans, you can now use something better than polystyrene.
I want to applaud Emma and Richard for doing all they can to avoid passing on the high costs of the BioFoam beans to their customers. They’re committed to keeping them as affordable as possible, to make the eco friendly dog beds a truly viable alternative.
Update 22/10/19: Plastic Free Spirits get 15% off at Barka Parka! Just use the promo code PFS15 at the checkout. When I spoke to Emma a few weeks ago, she said: “No-one has requested polystyrene since we launched. It won’t be long until we’ve ditched polystyrene for good.” Barka Parka now also stocks genuinely plastic free poo bags.