W Hotels and music icon Will.i.am are teaming up to change the sheets at all the brand's hotel beds across the globe. But if you thought this was some kind of celebrity-as-housekeeper stunt, you'd be wrong. Inspired by the immense amount of waste generated at Black Eyed Peas concerts around the world, Will.i.am teamed up with Coca Cola and W to create Ekocycle, a brand creating sustainable bedding that's made partially with recycled plastic bottles. The new linens debut today at the W New York properties in Midtown East and Union Square, kicking off a gradual, global roll-out that'll continue into 2016.
What that means for you: Guilt-free sleep on 300-thread-count sheets that are still as soft and supple as the old ones (if not more so). What it means for the world: More than 250,000 bottles diverted from landfills. We sat down with Will.I.Am to talk travel, upcycling, and over-the-top hotels--here's what we learned.
I gather you’re not in New York for long. Where are you coming from?
I was just in London last week, and then Coachella for four hours for a quick performance.
Where to next?
I leave tonight for Hong Kong—I’ll be staying at the Peninsula which is my favorite hotel in that city.
How do you keep track of what’s in your suitcase?
I have four suitcases that are always packed, and I just swap them out whenever I can. I'm always indoors, so I don't have to worry about the weather. I own four sets of everything and pick whichever one is just back from the cleaners.
This initiative with W Hotels and Coca Cola was your idea. How did it come about?
I had the idea back in 2008 after attending the Clinton Global Initiative conference. I learned that every single one of us plays a role in the configuration of the way the world is via the things we consume, but we also ignore the solutions to our waste problems because of how comfortable we are with our ways. So after that, when I was on stage with the Black Eyed Peas, I started to notice the aftermath of a concert and how we as a band played a role in creating waste. I realized we never gave our audience a direction about what to do with their water bottles; we could have put bins up, we could have put signs up, but we didn’t. That was where this all started, and in 2009, I brought the idea to Coca Cola, thinking that we could benefit from the intersections of Coca Cola in culture—they’re in every World Cup, every major event. Coke spelled backwards is where the name Ekocycle came from.
You’ve traveled the world on tour (and off): where do they get the party started fastest?
London—you can always find something to do. In Sydney, you can try to go out on a Sunday and everyone’s like, [in his best Australian accent—which is quite good] “Mate, the club’s closed on Sundays!” Want to go to dinner on Sunday? “Mate, the restaurants are closed on Sundays!” London never has an off day.
Name the one most over-the-top hotel experience you’ve ever had.
I don't like the pimped-out suites—they're configured to a particular taste, and it's not always mine. I'd rather have two adjoining suites that you can customize a bit more.
In that case, do you have a favorite hotel?
The Corinthia in London. They know how to tailor service to their guests. One time I went through the staff elevator and found a note tacked up that said “Mr. So-and-So likes this-and-that, but don't put grapes in his bowl.” It was all sorts of instructions for one guest whose room was off of that elevator bank. I think they have messages for all their VIP guests in all the elevator banks throughout the hotel—their service goes to such a deep level of detail, and they pay attention to everything. “How are you feeling? Are you okay? Do you need anything?” They make you not want to go home.
Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Peninsula in Tokyo are also fabulous.
You’re not at all a resort guy?
Hmmmm. [Takes a minute to think about it.] I guess I am a city guy. I have to admit; I don't take vacations. I don't even know what to do on them.
Do you have a favorite city?
London. I love that city. Coming here to New York, the traffic is so freaking nauseauting-ly frustrating. The same is true in the UK but for some reason I don't mind looking out of my window at the architecture there. It makes the traffic easier to stomach.
What, in your mind, makes a great hotel?
The spa. A great spa has real masseuses and not just people who rub lotion on your body—I hate that. I mean, are you just rubbing oil on me or are you actually giving me a massage? I travel a lot so I always have the same knots in my neck.
Do you have a go-to plane playlist?
I'm usually sleeping on the plane—it's the one time I'm actually relaxing. Even at the spa, I'm on my phone, fiddling with it through the face hole.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.