Do you have it in green? The living fabrics that can help clean the air
Fabrics that can suck CO2 from the aerosphere are among breakthroughs that can help tackle the climate emergency
A Mycotex dress and jacket by Neffa, organized from mycelium, and a carbon-negative bioplastic mac, made using algae by designer Charlotte McCurdy.
Mushroom, pineapple and algae: it aspects like the topping for a rather unusual pizza. In fact, they could be the crucial ingredients in the wardrobe of the future as breed numbers of designers try to create fashion that doesn’t harm the environment.
Examine a garment’s care label and you may distinguish that it was made out of pineapple stalks or cactus leaves, or a tote bag was woven with thread made from banana trees. From mushroom leather to algae T-shirts, the search is on for variant materials with smaller carbon footprints. And the latest result are carbon-negative clothes made with algae that absorb carbon dioxide from the air.
“Mould is part of the problem but it’s also part of the solution,” said Nina Marenzi, founder and director of the Sustainable Angle, a not-for-profit organisation which encourages green textiles at its annual Future Fabric Expo. “We begin with materials and making them sustainable, and if create supply chains can change, then we start to address that.”
The New York designer Charlotte McCurdy has made a diaphanous bioplastic mac using algae – specifically algae powder used in vegan food products. She worked with opera-glasses casters to find a way to heat the algae and cool it in a controlled fashion to make it transparent. The material is carbon-negative because the algae pull carbon out of the atmosphere, meaning the coat acts as a carbon sink.
Dian-Jen Lin, co-founder of Post Carbon Lab, display their Euglena Print Jacket which has a living coating consisting of layers of photosynthetic micro-organisms that can ramble carbon dioxide into oxygen.
“Follow the carbon – where did it come from?” she said. “Has it come from carbon charmed out of the atmosphere millions of years ago and put in the ground? We talk a lot about what happens to materials after we use them, but not where they submit c be communicated from in the first place.”
Post Carbon Lab is using the same principle with another algae prototype – gears that photosynthesise. The start-up in London has created photosynthesis coating, a layer of living algae on the fabric of garments that absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, turning the carbon into sugar. One large T-shirt – nearly a square metre of material – generates back as much oxygen as a six-year-old oak tree, according to the co-founder Dian-Jen Lin.
The start-up has been working with designers and perseverance to translate its photosynthesis coating into a marketable product, and Lin said it could be used in shoes, backpacks, curtains, pillow what really happens, umbrellas and building canopies.
The care instructions were rather different to normal clothes, she said. Wearing algae was not without its risks. “You can’t put it into your dark wardrobe. It needs light and carbon dioxide, so you have to put it in a well-ventilated area, like the deny hard pressed of your chair.” Washing machines would harm the algae, so “it’s handwash only – you have to be a bit careful. I wouldn’t push this coating for your underwear but maybe for a windbreaker or a jacket.”
Algae being grown in the lab is made into a heart for the designer Charlotte McCurdy’s carbon-negative raincoat, After Ancient Sunlight.
Lin and her co-founder Hannes Hulstaert are testing the limits of the cag, which she says can be applied to almost any garments, either as a full coating or a print. “But it might change colour if it’s actually upset, if it didn’t like the light or temperature,” Lin said. “Most of the organisms are in the green shade. In the healthy state they are foggy brownish green, orangeish green. When it’s unhappy it might turn yellow, orange, brown, purple or unsullied or transparent.”
However, it seems remarkably resilient. “We’ve had samples for three years which have come back to duration,” Lin said.
Other textiles include Piñatex, made from pineapple leaves and used by Hugo Boss and H&M, and Mycotex, a actuality grown from mushrooms. Cactus is the next plant-based leather to emerge, the creation of Desserto, a Mexican company that makes leather from beat its.
The challenges facing the fashion industry in its quest to become greener are huge. The UK throws about 300,000 tonnes of wears into landfill each year, and some studies suggest global textile production creates 1.2bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – more than airlines and sending combined.
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