In 1960, 97 percent of the fibers used in clothing came from natural materials. Today that number has fallen to 35 percent. But sustainable fashion veteran Isaac Nichelson wants to reverse that trend.
"We want to enable food crops to become our primary fibers," Nichelson told Fast Company.
That technology, the Agraloop™ Bio-Refinery, uses pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark and banana, hemp and flax stalks to make a textile-grade fiber. The technology recycles problems into solutions. 270 million tons of banana waste is left to rot each year, contributing to methane pollution and crop disease. But burning crops causes more than 10 percent of global annual air pollution deaths, according to the product's website. Instead, Nichelson wants people to wear that waste instead; just the five crops currently used in the Agraloop could produce 250 million tons of fiber a year, enough to exceed global demand 2.5 times.
"[It's a] regenerative system that uses plant-based chemistry and plant-based energy to upgrade the fibres whilst enriching the local communities and creating a new economic system," Nichelson said in a press release. The Agraloop systems are intended for farmers and producers to own so that they can dispose of their own waste and use it to augment their own revenue, according to Fast Company.
In April, Circular Solutions won the 2018 Global Change Award from the H&M Foundation, which comes with a $350,000 grant Nichelson said he would use to scale up production of the Agraloop.
The Agraloop isn't the only sustainable technology that Circular Solutions has developed. Texloop targets the problem of textile waste—almost 85 percent of used clothing gets sent to landfills—by upcycling it into new fabrics. Orbital™ Hybrid Yarns are high-quality yarns made from recycled food and textile fibers.
Nichelson, who is developing partnerships with H&M and Levis to use his fibers, told Fast Company that the fashion industry was increasingly interested in sustainability, largely for economic reasons. This year's McKinsey and Company and Business of Fashion annual survey said the industry would see losses of three to four percent unless it could increase efficiency and reduce waste.
"Right now, it's so extractive and so destructive, and we're looking at these resources becoming more and more finite as the population grows," Nichelson said.
Want Sustainable Clothing? It's Time to Meet Regenerative Fiber https://t.co/bIKxOHP2YS @SierraClub @CleanAirMoms @regeneration_in— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520253289.0
If you wear bras, chances are you haven't thought too much about their environmental impact. But bras can be made from a variety of unsustainable materials, from water-intensive cotton, to spandex, to petroleum-based polyurethane foam for padding. So once they're tossed, these synthetic fabrics will sit in landfills and take forever to disappear.
It's no wonder Australian lingerie designer Stephanie Devine launched The Very Good Bra, the world's first zero-waste bra.
The biodegradable bra, Devine claims, is so Earth-friendly that "you could bury it in your garden at the end of its lifespan and it would leave no toxic waste."
The bra comes with no wire and is made of Aussie-made tencel, a sustainable textile made from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees, which requires a fraction of the water used by cotton. Tencel, as it happens, is also ideal for lingerie due to its soft, absorbent and durable qualities.
Devine's bra features elastic made from sustainably farmed rubber trees, organic cotton for sewing thread and is dyed to meet the Global Organic Trading Standard. She even thought of organic inks for labeling and completely compostable packaging to make sure it's as clean as possible.
The designer crunched the numbers and determined that if the two billion women currently on the planet own, on average, nine bras each, that means 18 billion bras are headed for landfill. In her native country, Australia, 6,000 kilos of clothing and textile waste ends up in the landfill every 10 minutes.
A Kickstarter for the product was launched May 19 and fulfilled its AUD $20,000 (US $15,300) fundraising goal within 48 hours.
The Very Good Bra is available on the crowdfunding site for roughly US $65 and comes in 24 cup sizes. Early bird delivery expected for this August with another run in October.
Additional funds raised during the Kickstarter campaign will go towards completing Cradle to Cradle certification, which would make The Very Good Bra the world's first lingerie label and the first Australian fashion product to do so.
Devine hopes to continue to design more zero-waste products following her current campaign.
"For me this isn't about one bra, I want to develop a brand to cover a broader, inclusive range of zero-waste, low waste and recycled basics for both men and women," she said.
"Together we can start cleaning up the fashion industry and help protect our fragile planet for future generations."
Fast Fashion Is the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World, Next to Big Oil http://t.co/yO2nMHrUYr @greenpeaceusa @HuffPostGreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1439863264.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Gabriele Salari
The fashion industry is considered to be one of the most polluting in the world. Its material-intensive business model relies heavily on our addiction to overconsumption and feeds the destruction of the planet.
There is one way to solve the problem: slowing down fashion. We need a model that doesn't compromise on ethical, social and environmental values and involves customers, rather than encouraging them to binge buy ever-changing trends.
At Milan Fashion Week this year, Greenpeace Italy decided to give the podium to the pioneers of sustainable fashion, who are changing the way we wear our clothes. These are the companies behind some of the examples from the Greenpeace Germany report Fashion at the Crossroads.
We chose to highlight the three most important ways to create clothes that don't harm the planet: Make it last, Make it right, Make it different.
1. Make It Last
Hilke Patzwall from Vaude
"One of our key problems is too much consumption. It's important to inform consumers about all the consequences of fast fashion, but it is even more important that the industry takes on their responsibility. As a brand, we need to make products with a physical and emotional durability, and provide the infrastructure so that consumers can live up to slowing the loop."
Eliina Brinkberg and Hilke Patzwall at the event in Milan.Greenpeace
Eliina Brinkberg from Nudie Jeans
"At Nudie Jeans, we encourage our customers to wear their jeans longer by offering free repairs. We're so happy to be brought up as an example of being on the right track and we share Greenpeace's belief that prolonging the life of our clothes is one of the most important ways of slowing down the flow of materials in the fashion industry."
"By appreciating true craftsmanship, learning to love and care for our clothes and by buying less and wearing longer, we can create a more sustainable textile industry."
2. Make It Right
Andrea Cavicchi, part of the Italian Detox Consortium
"In the Prato area of Tuscany, we've been making sustainable fabric since the 12th century. We use production techniques where wool fibres are reused to produce new fabrics, allowing the recovery of fibres and textile waste materials. Used clothes that would normally be thrown away are reintroduced into the production cycle as raw materials. The first manufacturing companies to sign up to Greenpeace's Detox Commitment were in the Prato textile district."
"Now the Italian Detox Consortium is applying the Detox approach to the virtuous process of recycling textile fibers by promoting an investigation of the chemical contamination of regenerated articles and finding out what we can do to solve it. We ensure the traceability of the recycled textile material with their certification and by working with an international authority."
Enrica Arena from Orange Fiber
"We believe that a sustainable and ethical business model—one which considers the environmental and human costs of manufacture to be as crucial as profit—together with a circular approach to material sourcing and design, are the keys to closing the loop in the fashion industry and taking our world beyond the next season."
"We're faithful to our motto, 'the future is not a place we're going to, but a place we create,' and continue to research new raw materials and develop ways to improve our manufacturing process. People who wear a dress made out of our fabrics are not just consumers, but contributors to a more sustainable future. This is the contemporary way to construct an ethical and sustainable lifestyle; one that looks further than status and considers the future of our world."
3. Make It Different
Pola Fendel from Kleiderei
"Society is definitely shifting. Consumers are starting to question more. The amount of people who want to buy less and choose quality over quantity is growing. The projects and companies represented on Greenpeace's Fashion at the Crossroads panel all feed into this change in society whilst shaping and broadening it. We are increasing attention to this topic and providing much needed alternatives to fast fashion and overconsumption."
Arielle Lévy from L'Herbe Rouge
"Sustainability is a state of mind. The stakes are high for fashion. I believe that we have to inspire the economy by showing the success of new business models, especially post carbon initiatives. This is the only way our highly polluting industry can protect people, consumers and the planet."
"As far as the L'Herbe Rouge business model is concerned, our four pillars have proved that une autre mode est possible," (another fashion is possible):
- Coherence of Chain of Value: Eco design, eco production, eco distribution.
- Eco Frugality: Minimize resources and maximize added value (product and service).
- Innovation: In order to find new answers and create local jobs and autonomy for companies.
- Affordable Quality: Fair and accessible prices, direct selling, no intermediary, democratization through slow wear.
How do we thank the marvelous people working so tirelessly to change fashion for the better? We chose to give the final word to a Greenpeace ally:
Orsola de Castro from the Fashion Revolution
"Before technology and the advancement of the circular economy will save us, we have to slow down mass production and accelerated consumption."
"Now that consumers are asking questions, and an increasing number of brands are beginning to understand that tomorrow's loyalty will demand sustainable innovation, we need to encourage a culture where people are encouraged to challenge brands to be more ethical."
"If we increase the visibility of smaller slow-fashion brands we can make the fashion industry much more biodiverse. Small really is beautiful!"
Our next challenge is changing people's minds.
Gabriele Salari is the Communications Specialist for the Detox My Fashion campaign in Greenpeace Italy.
But in a true example of how to "Make America Great Again," Ashley Biden—the daughter of former Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden—has partnered with the e-commerce site Gilt.com to launch a new socially and ethically conscious apparel company, Livelihood.
The line features organic cotton hoodies that's 100 percent sourced and manufactured in the U.S. Not only that, 100 percent of the net proceeds from sales will be remitted to Livelihood to benefit low-income areas.
Proceeds will initially benefit Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden grew up as well as Anacostia, Washington, D.C., where she works as a social worker.
"Over the past 15 years, I've worked as a social worker and learned first-hand that civic participation is an essential component of community development," Biden said in a statement. "My goal with Livelihood is to celebrate that ethos with creative and innovative programs that directly impact local neighborhoods."
Biden said she chose to sell hoodies "because it is universal, was once ubiquitous with the Labor Movement and is currently symbolic of important social justice movements."
Livelihood's mission is to motivate local people to get involved with grassroots initiatives. Biden told Teen Vogue that her company will use the proceeds to create community boards to decide what local projects and issues need the most help.
"I want a janitor, a school teacher, the local pastor, whomever is involved in the community to sit at the table and to pick the projects for economic development," she said, adding that economic development could mean anything from "education, community centers, literacy programs, tutoring, or workforce development."
Biden continued about how she wants Livelihood to be about longterm policy reform. Livelihood's interactive website allows visitors to learn about models of change to serve underserved communities. It states:
"We're going to be talking about policy reforms needed, such as campaign finance reform, tax revisions, [and] minimum wage. We're going to be talking about the importance of civic engagement participation. Because many people don't believe understand governance, and how it's set up. [Livelihood] is encouraging people to get involved on a local level."
Biden also explained to People:
"I feel the country is so divided with everything that's going on and as Americans, as people from all different races and cultures and religions, we can all get behind is economic equality. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations. We have the largest wealth gap—1 percent of the population owns the majority of the wealth. We have 45 million people living below poverty. One of the big things with Livelihood is infusing under-resourced zip codes with funding for economic development projects as well as encouraging people to get involved. Getinvolvedinyourhood.com is an interactive website that talks about our social and collective history as it relates to economic justice. It provides various people, whether innovators in the human service field, creatives, entrepreneurs, who are looking to make a change, with effective models that work across the country to reduce poverty in communities. We're also going to highlight main policy reforms that are linked to economic justice and really talk about the importance of civic engagement. When people know better, they do better. I really believe that we have a knowledge gap in this country on governance. Things like: What is the electoral college? Why is voting important? What does voting affect? One of the biggest things Livelihood will encourage is to get involved locally. I believe the most crucial and important elections are on the state level. It's on the off years: It's your county council men and women, it's your local congressmen and your local senators in state government."
Former Vice President Joe Biden praised his daughter's work at the Livelihood launch last week.
"Her commitment to trying to change the world for the better is more intense than even mine has been," he said, according to Vogue. "Ordinary people, when given an opportunity, can do extraordinary things."
"Parks and Recreation" actress Aubrey Plaza, a Delaware native, is also a fan.
"I believe Wilmington and surrounding communities in Delaware need help and I want to get involved," Plaza said in a statement. "I think Ashley is incredibly smart and I love her ideas. We both talked about our love for Wilmington and for Delaware. I told her how some of the community programs in Wilmington influenced me as a child and helped me get to where I am today—namely, the Wilmington Drama League, a community theater, which allowed me to explore acting at a young age among other like-minded, aspiring artists. It's places like these I want to support so they can change other people's lives as well."
Livelihood's unisex-sized hoodies come in a range of colors, including black, slate grey, winter white, navy, emerald and blush. They cost between $79 to $99. Everything—down to the zipper—is made in the U.S.A. Details include a reflector stripe on the right cuff, extended sleeves with thumb holes, heavy gauge draw cords and the motto, "Keep Your Hood Up," printed on the exterior neckline.
These days, with 97 percent of all clothes made anywhere but in the U.S., the "Made in the U.S.A." label is a tricky one to sew, especially for the Trumps.
The New York Times found out, after reviewing hundreds of clothing tags and financial documents associated with Ivanka Trump, that "almost all of her goods are made overseas," such as Chinese-made shoes, handbags and dresses and blouses are made in China, Indonesia and Vietnam.
But with up-and-coming social entrepreneurs like Ashley Biden, it's clear that style can be sustainable.
As Occupy Democrats pointed out, "We do not need an autocrat in the White House claiming he can fix everything with a few dramatic executive orders. We need individual Americans giving the tools to members of ailing communities to help themselves. We need our policymakers to commit themselves to the longterm investment necessary to make longterm sustainable change for struggling Americans. Ashley exemplifies what the average American can do: work on local community projects, and demand change from elected officials. We should all follow her lead."