Last week in sustainability, I learned a lot about home companies are contributing to the sustainability efforts. Three groups went but there were a few that really stood out to me, one being Sydney McAlebs presentation on bionic leather. The company Modern Meadow has started creating leather in a laboratory using collagen cells which is what leather is made up of. This eliminates the need to harm animals ultimately reducing mass amounts of waste from the parts of the animal that goes unused. Once the DNA is created and the special hide is produced, the leather gets put through an environmentally friendly tanning process. This is an incredible idea because not only will animals go unharmed, but the leather world will change as we know it. Scientists who work for Modern Meadow cut strands of DNA and combine it with others to create an entirely new strand. This allows the finished leather to be, for example, as strong as kangaroo leather but as soft and delicate as snake. Additionally, the use of the final stage of the tanning process, protects and preserves the leather while simultaneously using less water, chemicals, and energy. Chandler Craven did her LOLA presentation over the company NOYA and how they focus on reducing fabric waste by reusing leftover fabric and yarns. They also promotion proper grazing practices, fairly compensate herders, promote the safety and health of animals, and maintain the ability to trace where the fabric came from all the way to its source. Another LOLA show presentation that stood out to me was Kara’s report on biomimicry. She talked about the lotus flower and how it is essentially self-cleaning. Her company decided to take the same technology and create clothing that resembles that of the flower. Since the majority of our carbon footprint comes from washing and drying, producing garments that eliminate the need for that would help save so much money and energy. Lastly, Hannah Haines discussion on the butterfly and how creating clothes designed after that was incredible. The butterfly’s wings reflect the light making our eyes see a certain color when really there is no specific color attributed. Making fabric with this same technology would eliminate the need for dying which would ultimately result in a cleaner ecosystem. On Thursday Dr. Armstrong came in and discussed her life and how she decided to venture into the world of sustainability. Something I thought was so interesting was how she grew up in Guam living the “hippy” lifestyle in a tent and then ultimately a cabin which was bought from her parents friends. Something else that stood out to me was how she worked forma visual merchandiser but once she saw how so many of their practices were unsustainable, she decided to pursue a master’s degree focusing on sustainability. I find it incredible that Dr. Armstrong refuses to purchase clothing that are not multipurpose. One of the biggest reasons our industry is so bad is due to fast fashion and the throwing away of items in a very short period of time. By choosing to shop with a “long term” state of mind, sustainability is inevitable.
On Thursday we also learned about the TED10 which discusses the ways that we can better our environment in a multitude of ways. The first strategy is the idea of Minimizing waste. We can do this in three ways, Dematerializing, reducing waste at the production level, and designing for durability. Dematerializing is the idea that we may not need everything we have, therefore recycling or creating less of something in producing like shorter Q-Tips for example, asking the question, can we do the same thing with less material? Reducing waste at production is important because normally, designers can leave up to 15% of their fabric on the cutting board that ultimately gets thrown out. By cutting the fabric differently, more fabric will be used eliminating waste from the start. Lastly, designing for durability means creating objects that can last throughout a life time, making the consumer value and appreciate their possessions more which will result in an end to fast fashion, something that the earth suffers from so much. A second TED10 topic that stood out to me was Designing to reduce chemical impacts. Aside from the chemical industry, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Due to dying, setting, and washing, so many toxins get released into our environment. Through seeking organically produced materials, creating non-toxic surface patterns, and effects that replace harmful dying and washing practices, the fashion industry as we know it could change forever. Lastly, Designing to reduce energy and water is something that is so important to me since the majority of our waste comes from the use phase. To be more exact, 60% of the total energy used in the lifecycle of a t-shirt comes from washing, drying, and ironing. This can all be fixed however in a variety of ways such as designing for no or low launder, innovative and informative labeling, and short-life garments meaning that you use it once then recycle it. Another way to reduce water usage is changing the materials that make up the fabric. For example, cotton requires an incredible amount of water, 29 thousand liters per kilogram. By changing to bamboo or hemp, we can save hundreds of thousands if not millions of gallons of water each year.
I think we can all adopt these principles by continuously educating ourselves and being aware. By really digging deep into some of these practices and learning exactly what we, as consumers, can do to change our habits would be the first step. Also, keeping ourselves aware and accountable when we are out shopping thinking about where we are getting our clothes and what their ethical standards on sustainability is. As long as we continuously strive to better our environment through healthy practices, we can without a doubt change the industry.