3 New Fabrics that could Revolutionize Sustainable Fashion
The future of fabrics looks fierce, fashionable, and sustainable. With the Fast Fashion industry making unimaginable amounts of waste, and with the environment killer that is cotton draining the world's water supplies, people around the world are rushing to find new scientific advancements to make fashion more environmental. While it's true that technology is not the only solution to our environmental crisis, progress must also include a large shift away from consumer disposability culture, new technologies that create environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional fast fashion materials are an essential step in saving the planet. Some of these new ideas are right on the cusp of going mainstream, and we at Rust and Fray are proud to help spread the word.
Note that all three of these fabrics happen to be vegan, which helps to demonstrate how much more environmentally friendly plant products are than animal products.
Orange Peel Fabric
Upcycling is Rust and Fray’s favorite word, so we’re excited to talk about this very inventive method of Upcycling first and foremost. Launched by the Luxury fashion giant Salvatore Ferragamo as a special line, the company Orange Fiber is making a silk like fabric out of orange peels.
The fruit juice industry makes about 44 billion liters a year and is expected to grow as more and more people look for natural drinks. As you can imagine that's quite a lot of fruit peels. While orange peels are biodegradable, it’s important to remember that just because something can break down doesn’t mean it will break down in a manner that's good for the earth. If the peels end up in a landfill, the oxygen deprived environment will choke out any microbes trying to feed off of it, making the process last much much longer than a composter. If the peels don’t go to the landfill they’ll often end up being incinerated instead, which creates greenhouse gases. But by Upcycling the peels into high grade fabrics, these leftovers break out of the waste cycle and get to reenter the use stream as a brand new, high grade fabric. That all being said though, luxury products can only go so far. What about a cheap, fast growing alternative to the fast fashion textiles like cotton?
Kelp is becoming a huge trend, with kelp based health foods catching on in the west and talks about turning it into a biofuel are in the works. But now biologists and entrepreneurs are experimenting with the idea of making kept into a fabric too. Algiknit is a startup that has been developing ways to turn kelp and other biomaterials into a knitable textile. They have already prototyped various clothing items, including shirts, sweaters, and even shoes. All they need to do next is work on taking the idea to scale.
The idea of kelp based clothes is a very solid one. Kelp is one of the fasted growing farmable products in the world, making it extremely quickly renewable and perfect for producing large quantities of material. While cotton is an extremely environmentally destructive product, kelp forests are similar to tree forests in their good benefits for the environment. Kelp farms absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, help de-acidify the environment, and provide a habitat for fish and other wildlife. Finally, kelp farming is extremely easy to do. Kelp farming could provide people in poorer coastal regions with a steady, reliable and easy income that can be done on a small scale in conjunction with other economic activities, such as shellfish raising, fishing, and even farming the next item in this list.
There is a very long-standing debate in the environmentalist community about whether vegan leather is better for the environment than cow leather. Any animal product by definition has a larger carbon footprint simply because keeping animals alive requires the plants needed to feed them, meaning you are raising two different living things to produce one product. Add in the chemically intense tanning process, the fact that cows are particularly known as methane producers (giggle), and the ethical issues at work, and it’s pretty damning for leather. But on the other hand, most vegan leathers are polymer heavy synthetic products that produce a ton of toxic waste to make and are not biodegradable themselves. So while it’s cruelty free, it’s not a terribly safe thing for the planet. But several entrepreneurs are coming up with a renewable and cruelty free solution: mushroom leather.
Mycoworks is working on a way to grow and produce leather from mycelium, which is the white stringy substance found under the mushroom that act like its roots. Because the mycelium has its own “skin” it acts very similar to leather, but with the added benefits of being able to be grown in any shape, any size, and is considerably considerably faster to make. Furthermore, as it is a fungi based product, it is very biodegradable. While expensive now, mushroom growing is not difficult and the infrastructure for growing commercial levels of mushrooms already exist, so mushroom leather production could very easily get to a huge scale within a very short amount of time, even to the point where it can compete with genuine leather price-wise.
With the predictions about climate change being as dire as they are, it’s good to know that human ingenuity is hard at work finding solutions. Keep up to date with our Facebook, Blog, and Instagram to learn about the future of sustainability, to learn fashion tips, and more.