In short-stay accommodation, cushions are a big deal. They’re everywhere: on the lounge chair, on the beds, maybe even on the floor of your stay. Some hosts prefer them plumped, some chopped. And I have some bad news for you: they are problematic for the environment.

Let’s look at the inside first – because that’s the tricky bit. Most cushion fillers are made from polyester (plastic, in other words). The cheap fillers go flat as a pancake very quickly. A when they go flat you will likely throw them out and buy a new inner, right? Or you might even throw the whole cushion out. If you buy another cheap filler, the same thing will happen again. Often the cheap fillers fall apart, leaving a cascade of horrible microplastics spreading everywhere: it makes such a mess.

Is there a biodegradable cushion insert? Well, yes – feather or down. But there are also issues with these. Allergy issues, fair labour issues and, most disturbingly of all, animal welfare issues. (Have. you heard about live plucking? I’ll leave that to you to investigate. You will need a strong stomach.) So let’s forget about feather and down-filled cushions…

Photo by Annie Spratt

What about cushion inners that have been made from recycled plastic PET bottles? Well, I’ve looked into  these. On first impression they sound like a good option – at least the inner is made from a recycled item – plastic bottles. But I’ve probed a little further – I’ve asked if you can recycle the cushion inner that’s made from a PET bottle when the inner is at the end of its life, so it can go round again. The answer is no.

So, biodegradable (feather and down) cushion inners are an ethical nightmare and there is no recyclable cushion inner. What do we do? Well, all we can do is do our best in an imperfect world. Here are some things you can consider to cushion the blow of the cushion:

Reduce – How many cushions do you really need? Ever stayed at a place where you need to put half the cushions on the floor just to sit down on the couch? What else could you use to decorate your lounges?

Reuse – Buy cushions with zippers so you can remove the inner when it fails and so you can wash and reuse the cover.

Buy biodegradable cushion covers – Cushions covers made with natural fibres. Wool, Linen, Cotton. Not polyester or polyester blends. Natural fibres will compost and biodegrade.

Buy quality – Buy cushion inserts that are guaranteed to have a long life, so when the inevitable happens and the inner needs replacing, you have kept it out of the waste stream for the longest period possible. Ask the retailer or manufacturer.

Make your own cushions – found some retro fabric at the Op shop that would make the perfect cushion? Making your own means it’s your labour going into a beautiful, unique item. You get to appreciate the labour that goes into making such frequently disposed of items. Making your own means you avoid the possibility of unfair labour practices by homeware empires (which often use sweat shops).

I am sure you have other suggestions for decorating your lounge chairs and beds – I’d love to hear them and maybe you have recommendations for quality cushion inners.

Here is one supplier you might want to consider, but I’m sure there are others – tell us who you have found!

MicroCloud Bedding –