Nikki Reed discusses her sustainable lifestyle brand, Bayou with Love, and why it's so important to connect with nature

By Octavia Akoulitchev
April 22, 2019 01:30 PM

Nikki Reed is turning trash into treasure!

The actress and entrepreneur, 30, launched her sustainable lifestyle brand, Bayou with Love, when she was pregnant and feeling extra conscious about what she was putting on her body. Unable to find certain products, like organic and chemical-free pajamas, she recognized a gap in the market and decided to make them herself.

But she’s gone far beyond sleepwear since then: Reed has been collaborating with Dell to extract gold and precious materials from computer motherboards and recycle them into jewelry.

According to Reed, there’s 800 times more gold in a ton of computer motherboards than in a ton of ore from the ground, and over 60 million dollars of gold and silver is thrown away on landfill every year unknowingly. So why not use it?

Credit: BaYou with Love and Earth and Element

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE, she explains that not only does Bayou with Love use up-cycled gold and sustainable gemstones, but their entire supply chain is ethical — from the mining to the cutting of the stone to the environmentally friendly factories.

But Reed’s not stopping there: her next project will convert air pollution into jewelry.

A company called Chakr uses technology to extract pollution from the air and distill it into an ink. “We’ve taken that ink and we’ve mixed it into an enamel and created fine jewelry. The idea is to take what people would literally consider trash and to mix it with luxury,” says Reed. “It’s beautiful to see what can happen when you re-purpose something and give it a new story. Are we literally cleaning the air? Sure!”

BaYou with Love
| Credit: BaYou with Love and Earth and Element

The brand’s evolution is a reflection of Reed’s own journey in learning how to live a more sustainable life, and she’s constantly trying to make little choices which will make a big difference.

As the Bayou with Love founder puts it, “If the entire world did just one thing differently, we would see change overnight, and I think that once your mind is opened up to that, you just can’t unknow it.”

She also reuses clothes as much as possible. “I try to wear vintage and shop vintage. My girlfriends and I do a fun little thing where we do clothing swaps,” she says. “It’s cute, and you can do luncheons and cocktail parties.”

While she admits that it’s sometimes hard to be eco-friendly in Los Angeles because of its vast size, she and her husband, Ian Somerhalder, 40, do what they can by driving electric and hybrid cars.

“I’m a huge biker. Up until the point that I had a child — when I started thinking about how scary it is to be center-lane with a bunch of crazy drivers coming towards me — I was actually biking everywhere,” she says. “I was biking to the market, bringing my basket and carrying things home.”

Nikki Reed on Breastfeeding
Nikki Reed
| Credit: Nikki Reed/Instagram

She might not be able to cycle as much anymore, but Reed still finds a way to reconnect with nature through frequent camping trips. “We have a 1989 Vanagon and an Airstream, and we probably spend about 100 days a year camping,” she says. “We spend about a third of the year not actually sleeping in a bed!”

Laughing that she’d prefer to be camping than staying in a five-star hotel, she explains why she loves it so much: “In nature, if things are moving really fast — like if you’re being chased by a lion or there’s panic or chaos — it usually means something is wrong.

“The way that we all live our lives right now is ‘Go, go, go — how fast can you swipe up? How fast can you send this email?’ I feel like we put ourselves, as a society, in a constant state of panic,” she continues. “We don’t work the same hours we used to, we’re all still sending emails at 10 at night because we have phones now, and we’re not just leaving work and leaving our desktops. Being in nature is honestly like life or death for me and my family. It’s so important for me to turn off for a second and walk away from everything, and nature gives us that.”