Covalent’s carbon capture sunglasses show the future of fashion

Leather is a Controversial material, not just because the cow must die to produce it.Or because tanning leather requires toxic chemicals, such as chromium, sometimes Pour directly into local waterwaysNo, according to environmentalists, the worst part of leather is that it is the main cause of climate change.

The livestock industry is estimated to be responsible 14.5% Of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.Kering Group is a luxury fashion group that owns legendary leather-loving brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, said in its statement 2020 Environmental Report The production and processing of leather is by far the largest contributor to its carbon footprint. When Amazon caught fire in 2019, The fire was blamed At least partly used for cattle breeding, and H&M, Timberland and other major brands swear Stop sourcing leather from this area.

However, the alternatives available to the fashion industry—polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride based on fossil fuels—have some shortcomings. All the buzzing vegetable-based vegan leathers that the manufacturer claims emit less greenhouse gases during production are also mixed with synthetic petroleum products, making them more harmful than “cruel-free” marketing implies. With all the media surrounding Adidas and Stella McCartney’s prototype products, you would think that you can already buy laboratory-grown leather wallets or mushroom leather Stan Smith sneakers, but these materials are still working to achieve commercial viability.

Currently, there is only one truly innovative and environmentally friendly vegan “leather” that you can click to buy directly from the Internet. AirCarbon is a carbon-negative material made from marine organisms that absorb methane. It was launched a year ago in the form of sunglasses, wallets, laptops and mobile phone cases.

In an industry known for the decline in hype even the most mundane products (another Recycled water bottle jacket,anyone there? ), the reception of the new brand, called Covalent, Unexpectedly muted. This may be attributed to the CEO of Mark Herrema of Newlight Technologies, a startup that makes AirCarbon, who brought the coldest atmosphere in California to our interview. When I noticed his relaxed attitude, he smiled and pointed out that he has been working on this material for 18 years. In any case, in his six rounds of financing, the most recent round of financing of 45 million US dollars, he has far exceeded the hype stage and entered the “just do it” stage.

Literal meaning: In August, Newlight announced a partnership with Nike to explore the use of AirCarbon. Nike, Which says 70% of its emissions are contained in its materials, which is Firm By 2030, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30%.

Herrema said that he had the idea that would eventually lead to AirCarbon when he was in Princeton in the early 2000s. He was studying politics, but some digestive problems drove him to study diet and food system.He found that a cow would hiccup Up to 500 liters Methane, a very strong greenhouse gas, enters the atmosphere every day. He imagined that the methane evaporating from a large farm into the air had a market value of more than $20,000 per year, and saw a business opportunity.

It turns out that a hundred years ago, scientists discovered that some organisms eat greenhouse gases and store this energy in the cells in the form of a molecule called polyhydroxybutyrate or PHB. “And this molecule, when you separate it, it turns out that it is meltable,” Herrema said. This means it can be molded into all types of materials in any color, from leather-like sheets to fibers, to solid shapes such as sunglasses.


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