Possessing a carbon-neutral wardrobe is a utopian dream that could become reality much sooner than expected. As the fashion industry works to gradually reduce its impact on the environment, a California company is pioneering a range of accessories with a certified 'carbon negative' footprint. All made naturally from... greenhouse gases.
What clothes will you be wearing in ten years? It's hard to imagine, but one thing is certain: the possibilities will be endless and they will take the environment into account in their production. From 3D printed sneakers that can be recycled to new biomaterials developed by high-tech start-ups, fashion is indeed changing, using its creativity and determination to no longer rank among the most polluting industries in the world.
One of the latest examples is proof that designing carbon-neutral clothing and accessories no longer belongs simply to the realm of science fiction. In fact, now, with just a few clicks on the web, it is possible to buy glasses, bags, and sleeves for smartphones and laptops that are made from greenhouse gases, in a process that is modelled on the logic of nature. Innovative, ecological, and without any doubt ultra-futuristic.
Taking inspiration from nature
AirCarbon: that's the name given to this carbon-negative biomaterial that California start-up Newlight Technologies developed over more than a decade. It is produced by naturally occurring microorganisms in the ocean -- now also found in large tanks filled with salt water mixed with methane in the company's factory -- that feed primarily on air and greenhouse gases, converted in their cells into polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB).
It is this biodegradable polymer, "a material made by life that bonds us to the natural world," that is now being used to make luxury accessories under the name AirCarbon. The start-up specifies that the biomaterial can be melted and then cooled, opening the door to infinite possibilities for making fibers, sheet, or even solid parts. AirCarbon could replace synthetic plastic and animal leather, and since it is natural and non-toxic, be recycled endlessly.
It's not surprising that fashion giants are paying attention to this innovation; Nike concluded a partnership with Newlight Technologies at the end of August to explore "the use of AirCarbon in a variety of applications" in order to reduce its carbon footprint while continuing to offer technical products to consumers. A collaboration that could quickly give rise to carbon-neutral accessories, even sneakers, neutral, made from this new biomaterial, and stamped with the famous swoosh.
Sustainable luxury at your fingertips
But the strength of Newlight Technologies' also lies in its ability to offer its own accessories made from AirCarbon. Not content to simply sell the biodegradable polymer to fashion brands or manufacturers, through its Covalent brand, the company retails carbon-neutral sunglasses, tote bags, purses, small leather goods, and smartphone and laptop pouches.
In a bid to be totally transparent, the brand makes all the information related to the carbon footprint of the products and their manufacture available to the public. For example, the Poppy tote bag, handmade in California, was designed from 51% AirCarbon, 14% bio-derived materials and 35% synthetic ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). A product with a negative carbon footprint, the bag has diverted 16.7 kilograms of CO2 equivalent from the air through its manufacture. It is available for $480.
The Covalent brand, as well as this new biomaterial, could be a real game-changer in terms of sustainable fashion, as one uniquely innovative solution allowing the industry to considerably reduce its environmental footprint.