For this session we needed to bring in some people who demonstrate sustainable practice.
Sophie Mather Yeh Group
Sophie Mather is an industry leader in sustainable textiles. One of the most environmentally damaging aspects of clothes production is the dying process, specifically water dying. Water dying clothes is responsible for disposing of half the Mediteranian Sea’s worth of water every year. Water dying is also responsible for depositing 200 000 tons of chemicals into rivers that manage to get past water treatment. Often this water is then used to irrigate crops. Sophie Mather’s idea to combat this is something she calls ‘dry dye’. Dry dye is a process that uses absolutely no water and instead uses supercritical carbon dioxide. This process also uses 50% less energy and 50% less chemicals than water dying.
This is a brilliant advancement in making one of the world’s most polluting and environmentally damaging industries more sustainable however it still has a ways to go in that it although it uses less energy, it still uses it and chemicals are still needing to be produced for it. It would be very difficult if not impossible to make this process completely, 100% environmentally positive or neutral but I think this is a good start and it’s important that this starts to be the standard method of dying insteed of the exception.
Suzanne Lee Biocoutre
The idea of Biocoutre is to develop methods for growing materials for clothes using bacteria culture and bringing them to market. Using bacteria culture instead of cottons and nylons puts less strain on the environment and creates less waste. Fabric can be grown in liquid vats and they will take the shape of the vat. The vision for this is to find ways to grow clothing straight onto a form and to be able to grow functions like waterproofing into the bacteria cells themselves. Since these clothes can be biodegraded, this could help reduce the number of textiles that end up hanging around in landfill sites. The other thing that Lee is looking towards is going back to a culture where we spend more money on one item of clothing and buy less of them and take care of the clothing (in a similar vein to Studio XO and Patagonia) and therefore consume less.
I think the main problem that this runs into is that the bio fabrics are made of green tea, sugar and a starter culture. The issue here is that these resources need to be grown and produced somewhere so although it creates amazing opportunity to reduce the chain of waste in the textiles industry, if this method of creating fabric became the norm, there might be an increased strain in other areas.
Oleo sponge is a sponge that has been developed to help clean up oil spills in the ocean. The sponge absorbs oil whilst allowing water to pass through thus cleaning the water. The even more interesting part though is that both the oil and the sponge can be reused afterwards. I think this is a really interesting development but it does seem to be more of a ‘band aid’ solution rather than actually solving it. It still encourages the use of oil to start with when really we should be trying to move away from oil.