OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Blanket to Bedding: Let's keep our friends warm!

Space blanket made from recycled material for people in need to keep them warm, that also turns into a temporary sleeping pad/bag.

Photo of Aakar Mehra

Written by

"At its core, a circular economy means that products no longer have a

life cycle with a beginning, middle, and end, and therefore contributes

less waste and can actually add value to their ecosystem." -Circular Design Guide

The idea that is mentioned above, in a way suggests that, if we can allow a product to stay with the user(s), then we can reduce the overall waste and energy consumption. Redesigning a product that can be utilized by thousands of homeless people and refugees,such that it serves their purpose along with creating a circular economy around the product.

This idea started as a concept for a design of a new mattresses made from Nike Grind with additional capabilities of refurbishing their existing bedding. Based on some of the feedback from the OpenIDEO community and more research into the needs of the homeless or refugees, the idea has now evolved into an individual space blanket that doubles as a sleeping pad/bag. 

Staying warm is the one of the hardest challenges that most people on the street face on a daily basis in almost every part of the world. They do anything and everything to keep themselves warm in the harsh conditions; anything from using crumpled newspaper under their clothes, to worn and torn coats or blankets or use an emergency Mylar blanket. We can help reduce this problem by designing a product that can help them stay warm during the day with easy to wear, warm blankets, coats and insulated sleeping pad/mattresses that holds the body heat while they sleep in some corner of the street or in a refugee camp.

This product is a small step towards helping the homeless and refugeesComforter to stay warm. The Fluffy Blanket, is a blanket made out of recycled Nike Grind material that can be easily folded into an insulated sleeping pad. Like regular comforters, this blanket has partitions made in a specific locations that will allow people to easily wrap it around themselves, even when they are sitting. Fluffy Blanket will allow them to cover not just their lower body and torso, but also their neck and face. If you take any of your blanket and try to wrap yourself in it, with some movement, it generally starts to slip. To adapt to that issue, Fluffy Blanket has arm sleeves built in on both sides. It is easy to slide your arms in the sleeves and has quick Velcro opening at the other end, in case you need your hands for anything. 


The arm sleeves and wings below it, were inspired by bio-mimicking bats. It can be easily worn if you are standing or sitting without creating gaps for wind to penetrate.

When you need to take a nap or sleep on a cold sidewalk, you can fold your Fluffy Blanket into a soft sleeping pad or bag. The arm sleeves fold from both sides into the middle third and triples up in softness and comfort as a single person pad. You can also slide your arms in the sleeves, and try to wrap the two side thirds over you and create a cozy pocket for warmth.


How is this going to help in circular economy? What is the sustainability perspective?

This product keeps circular design at its core, to allow for not having to replace it frequently and reuse as much as possible. The material used in this product are all recycled and put together in a way that makes it easy to refurbish the blanket. In case the Fluff or Foam gets flattened, it is easy to replace what's inside with new fresh, softer material. The flattened material can be pulled out and run through some hot air pressure (dryer), can be easily Fluffed up again! It provides a sustainable economy for the organization that manufactures as (unfortunately) there is always going to be a need for such blankets.

Additionally, in the productions process, we can create training documents/videos/GIFs for educating the users (homeless and refugees) to produce or refurbish the blanket. These training and skill development interfaces can then be easily provided to every Non-Profit or NGO that order this blanket. This will enable people everywhere to either duplicate the production process or refurbish the used blankets. 


How does this help Nike in doubling the business and reducing the impact on the environment?

The Fluffy Blanket is made mostly out of up-cycled shoe Grind, so it requires very low amount of energy consumption to be produced. The impact on the environment due to waste going to landfills or into the oceans, reduces and we do not need too many resources to manufacture the product. The product can also be sold to general public and the profits from that used to distribute the same to the people in need. (We can partner with the organization https://choose.love/ or http://www.empowermentplan.org/ )

 

How does this improve people's lives and reduce waste?

It is easy to imagine the improvement that we create in each individual's lives by reducing waste and energy consumption overall. More importantly, these products will be most beneficial for people living on the streets or at refugee camps. The raw material would be easy to transport and assemble in any location and can be easily transferred around from one camp to another. We would reduce the amount of shoes thrown away and bring them to use for a good cause. If we sell the same product to general public, conveying that their purchase will help keep another friend on the streets, warm, that would make people feel helpful. 


Immersing myself: Interviews

Conducting interviews in the Ideation Phase to get immersed in people's daily lives inspired me to think outside of my constrained mind. The interviews helped understand the needs of all kinds of demographics. I met with 5 people from varied backgrounds:

  • 28, Female, Sales Rep, Masters Global Policy
  • 25, Male, Chef, Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering 
  • 34, Female, Sensor Engineer, PhD Aerospace
  • 35, Male, Unemployed, High school
  • 40, Female, High School Teacher, Mathematics major


The first set of interview were done to get a general idea about how they perceive products made from recycled material. The questions were aimed to understand if using the Nike Grind material in daily products would be useful. Idea of products were suggested based on as audio or thermal insulation, non-slippery surfaces, items with floating properties, absorption properties and softness.

The overall feedback from these interviews suggested that a product that will come in use most frequently by people should be designed, so that we can use maximum amount of the recycled material. Another learning point was regarding finding more ways that we can help reduce the waste in the environment. My initial two concepts (Make your own bedding and Nike Grind Sieve) were trying to use the two main points, that came out of the interviews conducted.  

After drafting the two concepts and getting feedback from other contributors and design thinkers, I decided to do a few more interviews to get a more focus approach into my concepts. I specifically met with two homeless people and an organization in Ann Arbor that supports intake of refugees. This time the question were about understanding and learning from their needs on a daily basis. Other that the need for food and shelter, what are the most important challenges that they face. In the cold weather of Michigan, staying warm in these conditions was the primary challenge. After more reading and research, I concluded that staying warm is a concern that homeless people have all around the world. 

Based on the new interviews, research and feedback about focused product design, I decided on changing my idea from a mattress to a Fluffy Blanket. This will cover the need of the people on the street to stay warm and also my initial idea of mattress in the form of a sleeping pad/bag. 

Which Nike Grind materials will your idea utilize?

  • Rubber Outsoles
  • Rubber Flashings
  • Rubber Granulate
  • EVA Foam Injection Scraps
  • EVA Foam Flashings
  • EVA Foam Sheets & Blocks
  • EVA Foam Components
  • Laminated EVA Foam
  • Laminated PU Foam
  • Mixed Apparel Textile
  • Mixed Footwear Textile
  • Footwear Fiber "Fluff"

How specifically will these materials be incorporated into your solution?

The Fluffy Blanket will be made from the best quality Nike Grind Apparel fiber, stitched together. The back of the blanket will be one single piece of the stitched sheet, and the front side will have multiple pockets in a specific design as shown in the images. Each pocket will be filled with different combinations of Nike Grind material. The upper torso and low body pockets will have soft Foam and Leather scraps mixed with a lot of Fluff to make it comfortable and insulated. They will be separate sections so that it is easy for the person wrapped in the blanket to sit from standing position or vice versa. The triangular face wrap on the top will be filled with a light layer of "Fluff" to keep it thin yet warm. The two side thirds of the Fluffy Blanket will have pocket in shapes to provide arm sleeves in the middle. All of those pockets will be filled with large amounts of the "Fluff" and some Nike Grind rubber granulates and scraps. Rubber along with soft fuzz will help keep the front of the blanket warm and also provide easy to drape features to the blanket. The arm sleeves will be light and only lines with "Fluff" on the outside. This is to keep the arms warm from the outside but easy to move around on the inside. Each blanket will also be lined with a layer of the aluminum foil like Mylar blanket to keep the body heat from dissipating. This will be in the middle, so that it is not in direct contact with skin or visible from the outside. This is to cover a common problem noticed with the Mylar blankets are with slipping over sweaty skin and excessive reflection on the outside.

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

This product is mainly targeting the homeless people and refugees. It is made for people who want to keep themselves warm. It can be sold to general public, such that the earnings are used for helping improve the production process and generate jobs for more people in need. The target market can only be reached by the help of non-profit organizations that can collaborate with each other in various cities or help with production of the blanket by creating opportunities for their community

How will you scale your idea? Please describe in detail your plan to scale your concept.

The product will be highly utilized by most people in need during the day and night. During the prototyping phase a short video with easy demonstration can be made at the start and the end of the trial run with a homeless person. Later it can be advertised similar to The EMPWR Coat (http://www.empowermentplan.org/the-coat) on their website (if I can partner with them) or some other similar website. Any regional organization can then order the blanket from this website. Some Obstacles that I foresee: a. The Fluffy Blanket can be a little heavy depending on what material and how much quantity of each is being used. The prototype has to be done in a way that we can test the correct distribution of weight and warmth that we can provide. b. The comfort of the product when it is folded into a sleeping pad or a bag will need testing. There needs to enough space for one person to sleep on and if used as sleeping bag, it needs to have enough width to cover the whole body with ease.

How is your idea innovative?

A blanket is something that people on street need daily. The design that the Fluffy Blanket has, takes in consideration the issues that are the closest to the homeless people. The materials that are used in the "re-design" are new and allow for low energy consumption in making a new blanket item. The products also provide an innovative solution to the reuse and refurbish process for any existing/new material. The production process can be done manually by the involving the people on the street.

What inspired this idea?

Human Centered Design and the Circular Design Guide are the biggest inspiration behind this product. The need to reach out to society and help it evolve, by providing a sustainable economy and taking away the notion of "life-span" of the product, brought this design to life.

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

I am a mechanical engineer and work as a researcher for Autonomous Driving technologies. I am passionate about Human Centered Design and its use in creating better technologies. I love to interact with people and share new ideas.

In what city are you located?

Ann Arbor, MI

In what country are you located?

USA

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

Becoming one of the Top Idea would allow this product to come to life as a prototype. Depending on the amount of grind material that would be given for prototyping, I plan to make and use the blanket myself first. This will also give me a chance to present the prototype to one person at a time (would try to rotate it between 4-5 people), who would provide useful feedback on usability. This human centered approach will allow the concept to adapt and scale towards the real world requirements.

Attachments (1)

CoverPhoto.png

Original Idea: All of your bedding at home, reimagined using fully recycled material which can be easily refurbished/reused by you!

25 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Jessica YOGO
Team

Aakar Mehra  super cool idea. It seems that weight and cost of elaboration would be critical issues. I wonder if you could quilt with the fluff?? What fabric were you thinking?

Photo of Aakar Mehra
Team

Hi Jessica YOGO ,
Thanks for your feedback! I agree that the weight and cost will be a critical factors. Based on my design, the most used material will be Fluff, so the weight of it should not be too much. Although there are places where we need foam and rubber for some cushion, so keeping that limited will be an important aspect of the prototyping phase.
For the fabric on the inside, I was thinking of using the Nike Apparel Grind and on the outside something similar to what the Empowerment Coat project is using. The outer layer has to tough and weather proof.

Photo of Jessica YOGO
Team

Hi Aakar Mehra I think that's right! The fluff seems like the easiest stuffing, but that foam would cushion and insulate well. Luckily there are high quality materials to work with. Would be fun to see what you come up with!

View all comments