How leftover foods are being turned into green fashion

salmon skin belt
© Tidal Vision (via Facebook)

Eco-friendly fashion has reached new levels of awesomeness by fighting food waste at the same time. Learn more about these unusual innovations.

Eco-fashion is joining in the fight against food waste with some cool new innovations. Designers are figuring out how to incorporate leftover food and food-related byproducts into fabrics, which are then turned into wide variety of stylish products, from coats and belts to wallets and shoes.

The United Nations currently estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste annually, which is approximately one-quarter of all calories grown for human consumption. Finding ways to address this problem is of paramount importance, and while turning food into fashion is not going to resolve the issue altogether, it will help to a small extent and also educate people about the importance of recycling, upcycling, and reusing.

In an article called “From Coffee Grounds to Couture, Food Waste Turns Into Fashion,” writer Bekah Wright outlines the food-based innovations featured here:

1. Coffee Grounds

With people drinking an average of 3.1 cups of coffee daily, there are a lot of leftover coffee grounds, which is why a Spanish company called Ecoalf has figured out how to turn them into fabric. Wet coffee grounds are collected from restaurants and dried. Leftover oil is extracted, then the coffee is ground to a fine nano-powder. This is blended with recycled polyester polymers to create a yarn that is spun into fabric. Ecoalf’s description sounds impressive:

“The resultant fabric is soft, light, flexible and breathable and can also be use to produce an outer shell that is water resistant. The fabric thanks to the coffee grounds becomes UV-resistant, wicks water away, keeps you cool and it has odor control properties.”

Currently there are no items with coffee grounds fabric for sale, but they always come back for the Fall/Winter collection. Then you will be able to purchase Ecoalf products at the flagship store in Madrid and in 430 global multi-brand stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Harrods in London, Merci in Peris, and La Rinascente in Milan.

2. Salmon Skin

I realize many TreeHugger readers may not eat fish, but that does not change the fact that billions of pounds of fish and crab byproducts are discarded into the ocean annually. Wright cites former commercial fisherman Craig Kasberg: “Sustainable fisheries, by nature, cannot simply harvest more, so the only way to increase their resiliency is to utilize their catch to its fullest potential.”

Kasberg’s new company, Tidal Vision, strives to use every part of the fish, creating aquatic leather and chitosan, a polymer extracted from crab shells, using vegetable-based tanning products, rather than the harsh chemicals that are common to the industry. Tidal Vision now makes belts, wallets, and handbags, and its textile factory will soon be producing shirts, socks, and base layers that combine chitosan with other natural fibers.

3. Coconuts

Eco-fashion company Nau has developed a special insulation for its winter coats that is made from coconuts, in an effort to move away from goose down. The process begins by incinerating leftover coconut husks and mixing the ash with recycled polyester, which creates the fiber for clothing insulation.

From Nau’s website:

“Activated carbon derived from coconut husks is blended with recycled polyester. This, in turn, increases the surface area of the insulation allowing it to dry faster and resist odors (you can imagine a pool of water takes longer to evaporate than if you spread the same liquid across a counter), and carbon, being dark in color, is able to absorb more heat. In the end, you have a garment that retains heat, dries faster, resists odors and provides a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than other synthetic insulations.”

This insulation, formerly called Cocona, is now named "37.5™ Technology" and is also used by other outerwear companies, including Adidas, Under Armor, Eddie Bauer, and The North Face.

How leftover foods are being turned into green fashion
Eco-friendly fashion has reached new levels of awesomeness by fighting food waste at the same time. Learn more about these unusual innovations.

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