One of the topics covered in this week's eco-friendly news issue: A woman wearing black jacket and holding black duffle made from possible eco-friendly leather material.
Apr 29, 2024
weekly eco news

Improved Leather Alternatives Shake Up The Fashion Industry and Rays of Hope for Biodiversity - 23rd Issue

Pinterest Icon.Instagram icon

Eco-friendly vegan leather spells new era for the fashion industry

close-up of woman wearing black jacket and duffle that are both made with leather like material.

Long considered a staple material in the fashion industry, leather has attracted plenty of negative press recently. On top of its links to cruel animal agriculture practices, leather production requires massive amounts of water and pollutes waterways, land, and air with tannery toxins. If that weren’t enough, people who work in tanneries are exposed to high rates of carcinogenic chemicals that may cause a wide range of health issues.

Yes, there are options to buy vintage and ethical leather but, what’s the alternative leather solution? Until now, vegan leather alternatives haven’t offered the same durability and softness as traditional leather. Many such alternatives are also made with plastics requiring significant carbon emissions to process.

Fortunately, researchers at Imperial College London are about to change all that, having created an innovative, self-dying vegan material possessing leather's best qualities – without the host of negative consequences! The researchers hit upon this innovation by engineering bacteria to produce microbial cellulose – a highly malleable and durable material that can be engineered to create a range of different pigments. We look forward to seeing gorgeous vegan leather on the catwalk in the near future…

Conservation efforts are helping reduce biodiversity loss

An elephant roaming through the Congo basin in Africa, one of the areas part of the biodiversity restoration efforts.
An African forest elephant walks across the Lekoli river in the Congo basin where deforestation levels have declined.

A large-scale study has shown that conservation actions are successfully reducing global biodiversity loss – reassuring news following years of headlines about species extinctions and rampant deforestation. Surprisingly, the researchers found that species-specific interventions often benefited other species, even if they didn’t help the intended species.

So, what next? Naturally, there’s much more work to be done if the world wants to achieve the Global Biodiversity Framework goal of halting the decline of nature by 2030. Now we have evidence that conservation efforts truly work, we’ll hopefully see greater investment in interventions that will help biodiversity flourish.

Climate change worsened recent Dubai deluge

The flooding of one of the freeways in Dubai during sunset.

People across the world were left stunned by recent storms in Dubai that killed over 20 people and destroyed parts of its infrastructure, exceeding all previous daily rainfall records. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ferocity of the storm can be linked to climate change, with scientists estimating human actions increased rainfall by between 10 and 40%. The natural El Niño weather pattern is also likely to have played a role in the storm’s intensity.

The study – carried out by researchers with the World Weather Attribution group – emphasized that cities like Dubai are not built to weather the impacts of heavy downpours. While rainfall patterns can be difficult to predict, this unprecedented event underscores the need for cities around the world to improve their climate mitigation and storm management strategies.

Cancer research inspires sustainable fashion innovation

Spools of colorful nylon thread production mainly used for swimsuits and stockings.
Spools of colorful nylon material on production for.

We have even more positive fashion news for you this week following the exciting announcement of an innovation in nylon production. Currently, nylon manufacturing produces large quantities of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that outstrips the potency of carbon dioxide 300-fold.

The patented technology – put forward by master’s students at the University of Cambridge – uses a special enzyme to slash the emissions required during the manufacturing process. This discovery comes in the wake of a decade of research into brain cancer, demonstrating the potential for medical research to cross over into other scientific fields.

The students are now on a mission to shake up the nylon production industry and inspire designers to use more sustainable materials in their hosiery, sportswear, socks, swimwear, and more. Watch this space!

EPA channels $7 billion into clean energy projects

worker working on clean energy project: installing solar panels on the roof of a residential home.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded another $7 billion from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to allow over 900,000 households on low incomes to access clean and affordable solar energy.

As well as helping cities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the funding will go a long way to address societal inequalities. Did you know that people from disadvantaged communities face significantly higher energy burdens compared to the average household? Such burdens are associated with increased stress, economic hardship, and respiratory disease risk.

Increased access to solar energy will help slash high utility bills for low-income households, highlighting the fact that climate progress is intimately tied to issues surrounding justice and inequality. We look forward to tracking how this initiative improves the lives of people across different states and territories.