Plantchester founder Tim Berenyi has always been serious about sustainability. His childhood hero was eco advocate Tim Flannery, he has a master’s degree in environmental governance policy, and now he works in land management in the Northern Territory. It’s the job that inspired Plantchester, a hemp bedding label making sheets and doona covers that are completely compostable.

“I came up with the idea where all good ideas happen, in the backyard of a share house in Fitzroy North,” Berenyi tells Broadsheet. “Working out bush, I come across so many dumped mattresses. It really got me thinking about my bedding and what happens to it after I’m done with it.”

The result is a range of sheets and doona sets made from 100 per cent GOTS-certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) hemp fibres, that offer comfort and style with big eco credentials.

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Plantchester works on a circular business model. Waste produced during manufacturing is reintegrated back into the process to create more products, minimising the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill. At the other end of the product life cycle, used bedding is totally biodegradable.

“We’ve taken this idea of a circular business and applied it to agriculture,” Berenyi explains. “Because our bedding is made with 100 per cent organic hemp, plant dyes and no plastic, this means it’s fully compostable and won’t leach any harmful chemicals back into the soil. When it’s composted, it helps create healthy soil that grows more vegetation.”

Berenyi reckons hemp is the most environmentally beneficial crop when it comes to bedding. Unlike cotton, it needs minimal water to grow. It’s naturally pest- and mould-resistant, so it doesn’t require any pesticides or herbicides, and you can use the entire plant for other things. Hemp’s special properties also mean Plantchester’s bedding is antimicrobial, antifungal, heat-regulating and hypoallergenic.

Instead of using manufactured dyes, the bedding is coloured with natural pigments from plants – a deep brown from walnuts, a muted blue from gardenia flowers, and an earthy pink from tea-tree fruit.

“We expect a Pantone-perfect colour in our bedding that never fades because it’s packed with chemicals,” Berenyi says. “The truth is, nothing in nature is perfect and nothing stays the same. When you’re drying your sheets outside, the UV rays will fade them, and that’s okay.”

Plantchester products are also plastic-free, meaning no plastic buttons, zips or elastic. Instead, fitted sheets can be tossed over the bed and tightened with drawstrings, and doona covers closed with fabric ties.

The label’s biggest hurdle, Berenyi says, is the public’s perception of hemp. “Hemp got caught up in the war on drugs back in the 1960s. There are still prohibitive laws on advertising hemp products because of its association with its psychoactive cousin, which makes it hard.”

There’s also the idea that hemp might not being the softest material to sleep on, he says. “When I first told my friends about Plantchester, a lot of them were like “Oh, I won’t sleep in that itchy stuff”. The truth is that you can make hemp just as soft as cotton and linen, if not softer. I’m trying to use the brand to educate people in a way that doesn’t make them feel guilty about their choices.”

Plantchester is currently something of a family business. With Berenyi’s time split between Melbourne and the Northern Territory, his mum looks after packing and shipping from her home. It’s been a slow and sometimes testing process to get the label where it is now, but Berenyi is still focused on creating a brand that genuinely does good.

“I used to get really disheartened at the world and wonder why people weren’t considering their impact on the planet. Now I realise people are interested in this stuff, but they just don’t know where to learn about it. That’s why I’ve made a brand that creates high-quality products that do good, and that serve the purpose of educating people.”

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