Is Carbon-Capturing Clothing Possible?

The Green Revolution in the 1950s made way for numerous sustainable projects on the basis of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution- which were at the highest levels ever seen following World War 2. As technology advanced, by the time we reached the 70s, scientists were able to trace disastrous climate reactions to the heating up of the atmosphere because of the unstopped emissions. The idea of Carbon-capturing technology (CCUS- Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage) came into place as a method of capturing emissions before they were released into the atmosphere, and following collection they would be converted into another energy form. However, with the Cold War and rise of nuclear warfare, the cost of sustainable energy sky-rocketed while research on their efficiency declined. So, CCUS did not get the time or money it needed for development and never became reliable enough for our daily use. 

Its all changing now, though. 

Currently, there are 21 large-scale CCUS projects for reducing factory emissions around the world. Over the past ten years, technology has been able to make carbon capture processes cost up to 70% less than before with new solvents and chemical “sponges” to capture CO2 and catalysts to speed up the CCUS processes.

Now, with these improvements on energy efficiency, we need to consider which industries must begin their transition into utilizing these technologies. Of course, those with higher contributions to overall emissions must prioritize green energy- namely, the fashion industry. In 2018, the fashion industry was responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater (mostly attributed to jeans production). Moreover, fast fashion is one of the most wasteful sections in the garment line, their very ideology of cheap clothing for cheap prices puts up major red flags. 

Keeping that in mind, certain designers have begun researching carbon–capturing type clothing, so the garments can limit their negative impact through material usage. Post Carbon Lab was founded by Dian-Jen Lin, a London College of Fashion graduate from their fashion futures program, and Hannes Hulstaert, an Architecture graduate of the University of Antwerp. Their mission in creating the company was to promote something they call Regenerative Sustainability Activism, which they describe as “making sustainability as easy and accessible as daily conveniences like putting on clothes and commuting,” which includes designing garments with photosynthetic and pollution-filtering properties to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry (Caldas).

As of right now, the garments feature a “living algae coating, consisting of layers of photosynthetic micro-organisms that can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen [and glucose].” To keep the algae alive and carbon-capturing, though, the outfits need to be looked after as if they were almost like plants. Caring procedures include daily watering, ph neutral detergent washing when needed, direct heat prevention, and storage in well-lit, ventilated spaces (Caldas). 

This is still an upcoming idea, and will take more time to create real SUSTAINable clothing that will last long enough to be viewed as slow fashion, without needing so many resources to ensure it’s wearability. 

To conclude with a statement from the producers, “We love how each piece has turned out and how accessible they are for people looking to make a statement and reduce their carbon footprint.” Despite the fact that the collection is only a designer concept, it demonstrates how, as time goes on,  more enterprises will seek to reduce their carbon footprints through further investigation, research, and experiments to ensure a brighter, greener future.

Take a look at Is Carbon-Capturing Clothing the Possible Future for Fashion? for more! 

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