Fortuna Cools recently announced the launch of the Nutshell Cooler, a collapsible cooler made using upcycled coconut fiber sourced from the Philippines and designed to outperform plastic. The company worked with local coconut farmers from a fishing village on Lubang Island to create the innovative, insulating material.

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A light blue cooler box on a white picnic blanket, with someone reaching their hand into the cooler to grab a can.

Each cooler is insulated with 24 coconut husks and manufactured close to the farms, meaning more income for those small-scale coconut farmers and the creation of advanced jobs in their local agricultural communities. Since the liners use recycled PET, there are no virgin plastic components to the coolers either.

Related: Coconut oil production is a danger to vulnerable species

A person on the beach holding the cooler over their shoulder.

The cooler is the product of a collaboration between Tamara Mekler, a Behavioral Biologist with an M.S. from Stanford in Sustainable Development who previously worked in community-based conservation and environmental education, and David Cutler, a Stanford-educated designer who worked in development and consulting for startups and NGOs across Asia. The pair started working on coolers in the Philippines back in 2018 as university graduate students. 

A group of people picnicking on the grass with the cooler between them.

While studying with NGO Rare and the local community on Lubang Island in the Philippines, Mekler and Cutler discovered a way to turn coconut husk fiber (a leftover byproduct of the coconut meat industry that is typically burned as waste) into a material to replace plastic foam. Together with award-winning industrial engineers at Box Clever, they released the first coconut coolers in 2019 and created a Kickstarter for the Nutshell Cooler for an Early Bird price of $169 (MSRP $249). Through the 1% for the Planet program, the company donates at least 1% of sales to its conservation NGO partners in the Philippines.

A hand peeling back part of the cooler to show the coconut fiber insulation.

The cooler’s structure is inspired by origami, specifically the convenient feature of folding into itself to collapse and save space while not in use. Once open, it holds 19 liters (or enough for 18 cans and 14 pounds of ice) and weighs just eight pounds empty. Both the polyester shell and liner are 100% recycled. Controlled tests promise to keep ice frozen as long as the Yeti Hopper Two and 10-40% longer than the Coleman Excursion, the REI Pack-Away and the popular Expanded Polystyrene ice chests.

+ Nutshell Coolers

Via Core 77

Images courtesy of Nutshell Coolers