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These living garments capture carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere

As the textile industry faces increasing pressure to rethink its production practices amid the climate crisis, eco-innovators are coming up with ingenious ideas to help achieve that.

From mushroom leather to algae T-shirts, the search is on for alternative materials with smaller carbon footprints. And the latest results are carbon-negative clothes made with algae that absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

Take New York designer Charlotte McCurdy, for example, who has fashioned a water-resistant jacket from a plastic made of algae. The material is carbon negative because the algae capture existing CO2 from the atmosphere, making the jacket act as a carbon sink.

Post Carbon Lab is using the same principle with another algae prototype – clothes that photosynthesize. The start-up in London has created photosynthesis coating, a layer of living algae on the fabric of garments that absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, turning the carbon into sugar. According to the co-founder, one large T-shirt – nearly a square meter of material – generates about as much oxygen as a six-year-old oak tree.

The startup has been working with designers and industry to translate its photosynthesis coating into a marketable product, with potential uses including the production of shoes, backpacks, curtains, pillowcases, umbrellas, and building canopies.

Other textiles include Piñatex, made from pineapple leaves and used by Hugo Boss and H&M, and Mycotex, a substance grown from mushrooms. Cactus is the next plant-based leather to emerge, the creation of Desserto, a Mexican company that makes leather from leaves.

While most of these products have the potential to overhaul the heavily polluting textile industry, they also serve as a symbol of the fact that the tools and technologies we need to fight the climate crisis are already available to us.

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