Discover more from Following the Footprints
🌱 Weaving Change: From carbon to couture with Rubi Laboratories, and a look at fashion's legislative future.
Featuring Rubi Laboratories, AYM, GANNI, Patagonia, PANGAIA and more...
We’re back, and more energised than ever, after a short summer publishing break. As a volunteer-led team, it’s been important for us to recharge and connect with nature after a busy first half of the year. We hope you’ve had opportunities to do so too!
Back to normal programming, this week we cover:
Quick Take: Unravelling EPR and the Global Plastics Treaty: can new legislation help tackle fashion’s impact?
Brand Spotlight: Weaving Change: Rubi Laboratories are turning carbon into couture.
In case you missed it: 🌱 AYM's spin on slow fashion, and your primer on the Green Claims Directive.
> Postcards of nature from the Following the Footprints team!
> Quick Take
Unravelling EPR and the Global Plastics Treaty: can new legislation help tackle fashion’s impact?
Fast fashion is accountable for 10% of total global carbon emissions. Whilst 85% of all textiles are sent to landfill annually, huge impact also arises from the use of the products themselves. 500,000 tonnes of microfibres released into oceans annually as a result of consumers washing their clothes.
It looks like policymakers are waking up to the need for legislation to tackle these issues, with the first draft of the Global Plastics Treaty published earlier this month by the United Nations Environmental Assembly and the Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC). Aimed at tackling plastic pollution, with a focus on recycled plastic content and waste management, the treaty will be signed by 175 nations by the end of 2024. Additionally, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation is coming down the tracks too - need a quick reminder on EPR? Have a read here.
The Global Plastics Treaty and EPR both encourage the full life-cycle of products to be redesigned, with EPR placing the impact onto all producers, businesses and importers of packaging in the UK, in the form of a monetary tax.
How could the scheme revolutionise innovation within the fashion industry? What can fashion brands themselves do?
Favour eco-design in concept and packaging to reduce material-use at source. Check out Viron and their shoes created from repurposed waste.
Improve efficiencies and encourage reductions during production and consumption. Lightweight packaging is a key place to start - reducing the amount of raw material required while continuing to deliver the functions of the packaging. Encouraging consumers to shop less and reuse more is a great step too - see our dive into Asket for a great example.
Increase recycling and reuse in a bid to reduce the amount of products sent to landfill. Important steps are developing circular waste systems with in-house recycling schemes, and launching resale and online marketplaces - Patagonia’s Worn Wear online site and Pangaia’s recent ReWear announcement provide good inspiration.
While the UK Government has delayed the launch of EPR to give businesses time to redesign their supply chains and reduce costs where possible, the new legislations should incentivise more circular innovations from businesses and producers. Now, with the Global Plastics Treaty being hailed as the ‘most important green deal since the 2015 international climate agreement’, can such legislation and collaboration help secure a greener future for fashion? Only time will tell.
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> Brand Spotlight
Weaving Change: Rubi Laboratories are turning carbon into couture.
While much research has focused on the impact of fast fashion on the environment - characterised by the rapid turnover and disposal of clothing - another critical area of concern is the environmental consequences tied to textile production. The fashion industry is accountable for 10% of global emissions, with textile production experiencing exponential growth. In 2020 alone, a staggering 109 million tonnes of textiles were produced, compared to 58 million tonnes in 2000. The textile industry not only contributes to emissions but also places a significant strain on water resources. A single cotton shirt requires 2,700 litres of water to produce, while a pair of jeans requires 10,000 litres - as much as one person would drink over 10 years! I think we can all agree that the way we produce and consume clothes requires greater scrutiny.
What if, instead of producing emissions for fabric production, carbon was sequestered? Enter Rubi Laboratories, a trailblazing company utilising atmospheric carbon dioxide to craft textiles.
From Carbon to Couture
Rubi Laboratories work on reinventing textile supply chains that are beneficial to the environment. One pair of jeans produced with Rubi’s textiles capture around 18 bathtubs worth of carbon dioxide and use virtually no water. What’s more? They are producing the same materials already used in clothing - viscose and lyocell - they’re just doing it better.
So, how does the technology work? Carbon dioxide from manufacturing flue gas streams is captured before enzymes convert it into cellulose pulp. The pulp is then spun into mainstream fibers, yarn and textiles. Once these materials serve their purpose, like paper and wood, they biodegrade entirely, returning to the carbon cycle.
Based in San Francisco, Rubi Laboratories is founded by twin sisters, Neeka and Leila Mashouf, both with scientific backgrounds. By February 2022, they had already secured $4.5 million in seed funding, inclusive of a grant from the US National Science Foundation, and the likes of Talis Capital and Necessary Ventures as investors, along with angel investor Nicolaj Reffstrup, the founder of GANNI.
Snagging Sustainable Stars
As with their impressive roster of investors, their work is not going unnoticed - they're bagging awards too. They were one of six winners to receive the H&M Global Change Award in 2022 - a testament to their cutting-edge contributions to textiles. Only a month ago, they announced their partnership with Walmart in which their reactor systems will be installed at Walmart production facilities to capture carbon dioxide. The resulting outputs will be used to test garment prototypes, ultimately leading to a clothing collection.
Sustainable Threads for the Fashion Frontier
At the Global Fashion Agenda this year, Rubi debuted their yarn, which GANNI has already agreed to trial for their clothing. As Rubi Laboratories continues to "sew" the seeds of innovation, their influence will ripple far beyond fashion. Rubi Laboratories is weaving change, one plant positive thread at a time.
Take a closer look at Rubi Laboratories:
> In case you missed it
🌱 AYM's spin on slow fashion, and your primer on the Green Claims Directive.
Featuring Bold Bean Co, COOK, Sapling Spirits, OGGS and more...
> Follow up with…
Event: Bloom: Where Biodiversity Meets The Bottom Line - 24th-25th October