Pineapple fiber shoes, eucalyptus belt, mushroom’ leather jacket,… surprising and eco-friendly materials of the future

January 25th, 2017

How will we dress in a few years? What shall we wear at the feet? Will we still drink water in plastic bottles? Probably not, as all emerging innovations are even more surprising as each other.

Last year, the Spanish designer Carmen Hijosa won the Arts Foundation Material Innovation Award from the Royal College of Arts of London for her creation, the Piñatex. This material is made out of pineapples’ leaves and Carmen Hijosa uses it to make shoes, hats, bags and others accessories. The result is stunningly similar to animal leather. And advantages are many: Piñatex is of course totally vegan, so cruelty-free, cheaper (per square meter versus 23 to 35) and faster to produce (14 months versus a couple of years) than animal leather and more sustainable, particularly in terms of waste production. “We have the advantage that our waste is about 5% whereas leather’s waste is about 25% so there is a price to pay for waste as well” says Carmen Hijosa to The Guardian. Moreover, Piñatex only uses leaves of the pineapple – 80 leaves or 16 pineapples for one square meter; it is thus a byproduct of the fruit harvest and does not need additional land to be produced.

Fabian Stadler also decided to develop an alternative to leather that is not made out of plastic. This German entrepreneur wanted something natural and sustainable, far from the tannery industry which is an highly polluting process and criticized by associations of animal rights. He has selected eucalyptus for its strength and its fast growing not requiring much water or energy. This is how the brand Noanifashion was born. For now, it only sells belts.

Same logic for the American company MycoWorks, which produces leather from mushrooms. The idea was to create a biodegradable leather with a low carbon footprint. The inventor Philip Ross also highlights the benefits in terms of resource savings of this new material. Mushrooms are growing even more faster than pineapples, making it a very sustainable alternative to animal leather.

Adidas also adds its contribution to the creation of sustainable materials. After selling shoes made out of waste plastic from the ocean, the brand is now releasing an almost entirely biodegradable pairs of sneakers. These are made of artificial spider silk. When your shoes are not wearable anymore, you have to immerse them in water and add an enzyme called proteinase. After 36 hours, shoes will be liquefied and you could drain the liquid down the sink. Only the foam sole is not soluble and will still need to go to landfill.

It is not only the clothing sector that is revolutionized by the materials of the future. Hopefully, someday, we will find a way to get rid off the flood of plastic packaging (8 million tons dumped in the ocean each year!) Meanwhile, some are already tackling the problem. Ari Jónsson, a student from Iceland Academy of the Arts, created a biodegradable bottle made out of seaweed. Jónsson was asking himself this question: “Why are we using materials that take hundreds of years to break down in nature to drink from once and then throw away?” He then designed a bottle made out of agar-agar. This element used in cooking as vegetable gelatin actually comes from an algae. The principle of the material is amazing enough: the bottle keeps its shape until it’s empty. It then decreases in size until disappearing completely, as you can see on the picture above.

It does not stop there. The future is on its way. And the next generation is already taking over. As The Independent recently titled: “The future’s in safe hands“. A fortnight ago, at BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition, a 13 years girl called Haritha Olaganathan displayed her project: yield natural nylon from bananas. She said that production of nylon is not eco-friendly and presents her innovation as a natural and safer for the environment alternative.

Another group of girls, Eimer Butler Litster (15), Sarah Lalor (16) and Sadhbh Ni Dhubshláine (16) had the project to turn milk into plastic, thanks to the casein contained in it. Like the made out of seaweed’ bottle, the material would be entirely biodegradable.

Let’s hope that in the near future we will be done with polluting and unsustainable materials!

Featured image: Pineapple. Credit: Chuttersnap – Flickr

About the Author

Marie Daffe

Marie is a contributor to Green News. She has a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium.

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