Covalent Carbon-Capturing Sunglasses Offer a Look at the Future of Fashion

The skin is a controversial material, and not just because cows have to die to make it. Or because the skin’s epidermis requires toxic chemicals such as chromium, which sometimes dumped directly into local waterways. No, the worst part of the skin, according to environmental activists, is that it is a major factor in climate change.

Animal agriculture is estimated to be responsible 14.5 percent of the world’s emitted greenhouse gases. Kering, the expensive fashion conglomerate that owns secret expensive leather brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, said in 2020 environmental report that the manufacture and processing of leather is the largest contributor to its carbon footprint. And if Amazon burns out in 2019, blamed the flames at least part of the cattle care operation, and many big brands including H&M and Timberland have sworn to stop the removal of skin from the region.

The options available to the fashion industry, however-fossil-fuel-based polyurethane and PVC-remain something to be desired. All the buzzy plant bark, which the manufacturers claim to emit fewer greenhouse gases during manufacture, is also mixed with synthetic petroleum products, making them more more harmful than they show in “non -violent” marketing. With all the newspaper around prototype products from Adidas and Stella McCartney, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you could already buy a leather wallet or leather mushroom Stan Smith sneaker, but that materials continue to struggle towards commercial viability.

Right now, there is only one truly innovative and vegan friendly “skin” that you can click to buy directly on the internet. AirCarbon, a carbon-negative material made using methane-munching marine organisms, hit the market a year ago in the form of sunglasses, wallets, and laptop and phone sleeves.

In an industry known for hyping even the most global product drops (another recycled jacket water bottle, anyone?), acceptance for the new brand, called Covalent, strangely naumay. That may be dedicated to AirCarbon’s start -up CEO, Mark Herrema of Newlight Technologies, who brought some of California’s coolest vibes to our conversation. When I noticed his calm demeanor, he chuckled and pointed out that he had been working on making this material for a whole 18 years. However, with six rounds of funding under his belt, the most recent at $ 45 million, he has already broken through the hype phase and into the “just do it” phase.

Literally: In August, Newlight announced a partnership with Nike to test AirCarbon’s equipment. Nike, saying 70 percent of its emissions are packaged in its materials, one of the many major brands that have done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by no less than 30 percent by 2030.

Herrema said the idea to take to AirCarbon came to him while he was at Princeton in the early 2000s. He studied politics, but some digestive issues prompted him to start researching foods and the food system. He knew that a cow could sail up to 500 liters of methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere on a daily basis. He imagined the market value of that methane-more than $ 20,000 per year from a large farm-that would evaporate into the air, and saw a business opportunity.

As it happened, a hundred years ago, scientists discovered that there are organisms that feed on greenhouse gases and store energy inside their cells in the form of a molecule called polyhydroxybutyrate, or PHB. . “And this molecule, if you separate it, it becomes soluble,” Herrema said. That means it can be molded into all sorts of materials in any color, from quilts like leather, to fibers, and solid shapes like sunglasses.

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