Innovations demonstrating what is possible in the areas of design and sustainable science.
This year’s #worldveganday will be held on Sunday 1st November. As 2020 has posed some of the most difficult challenges to our mental and physical health in recent years, it is more important than ever that we continue to look after both our planet and ourselves.
In light of this year’s health crisis, one of the motives behind this year’s #worldveganday focuses on making vegan-living more affordable and cost-effective. As such, the following innovations demonstrate what is possible in the areas of design and sustainable science in terms of developing a wider range of available vegan products and experiences.
1. STARTUP DEVELOPS COMPOSTABLE VEGAN LEATHER FROM DISCARDED COCONUT WATER
The India-based vegan materials startup Made From Malai developed a compostable vegan leather from bacterial cellulose found in discarded coconut water.
Before finding success with coconut water, Slovakian designer and material researcher, Zuzana Gombosva, and product designer and mechanical engineer, Susmith Suseelan, spent five years testing over 150 formulations.
To create the material, coconut water is sterilised and fed to bacterial culture. The product then ferments for up to two weeks. The jelly that forms over the outer layer becomes bacterial cellulose – this raw material which Gombosva and Suseelan have also named Malai. Next, the Malai is harvested, refined and mixed with banana, hemp or teak leaves to create durability and texture before it is air-dried. This is done to give the natural fibres their characteristic leathery properties — such as being water-resistant.
2. SCOTTISH STARTUP DEVELOPS SEAWEED-BASED, MARINE-SAFE BIO-PACKAGING
Oceanium is developing marine-safe, home compostable bio-packaging materials and food products made from sustainably-farmed seaweed. Their aim is to enable a sustainable seaweed farming industry to mitigate climate change, ensure food security and create jobs across their supply chain.
What sounds like a simple solution to solving ocean plastic pollution has a plethora of environmental benefits. Seaweed farming does not require cleared land, fertiliser or pesticide to grow. In addition, it acts as a carbon sink sequestering carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the ocean, which reduces atmospheric carbon and ocean acidification. Seaweed farms also protect the seabed from commercial fishing and provide a marine sanctuary for sea life.
3. DESIGNER CREATES CARBON-NEGATIVE RAINCOAT
New York designer Charlotte McCurdy has created a plastic out of algae, which reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. She has fashioned the plastic into a raincoat, which was made by binding the algae with heat and then pouring the resulting material into custom-made moulds. The pattern is cut into the plastic while it is still in the mould. Once cooled and solidified, the translucent plastic is given a thin coating of wax to make it more water-proof and then assembled into the finished raincoat.
McCurdy has gone further than using algae in the jacket’s production – the entire jacket is made of algae, including all of the snaps and threads. Her studio also runs on renewable energy, and when she could not find a non-petroleum-based vegan wax, she developed an entirely plant-based waterproofing one.
4. VEGAN PUFFER COAT IS STUFFED WITH FLOWERS
The clothing brand Pangaia developed a puffer coat which uses flowers as an alternative to tradition duck or goose down stuffing. The vegan coat instead uses Flower Down, which is derived from fibrous wildflowers.
To create the stuffing, Pangaia combines the wildflowers, which are shredded and combined with a biopolymer made from vegetable waste, with aerogel, a non-toxic porous solid foam made of 85 per cent paper. The result is durable thermal insulation as warm as most high-end feather down jackets. The company claims that jackets made with Flower Down will keep the wearer warm in temperatures as low as minus-20 degrees celsius.
5. HANDMADE ‘LEATHER’ TRAINERS ARE BOTH VEGAN AND ORGANIC
Designers Sebastian Thies and Nina Fabert headed up the design of this vegan leather trainer. This leather is made from mushroom mycelium, making it more sustainable than the alternatives currently available. Nat-2 has also used fungus in their vegan leather design, combining it with eco-cotton, suede made from recycled bottles, cork and rubber.
Fabert is the designer of Zvnder, a line of vegan leather products made from the same fungus used in the trainers. This real fungus, fomos fomentarius, is a parasite, tinder sponge, which grows on dead or weak birch and beech trees.
6. VEGAN SHRIMP MADE FROM SEAWEED
US-based New Wave Foods is using plants and sustainably sourced seaweed to create an environmentally-friendly shrimp. It could become a sustainable alternative to the 1.4 billion pounds of shrimp that are consumed in America every year.
The company uses natural plant extracts to create the briny and sweet flavours of shrimp. The company says the product also has the “texture and bite of shrimp” and can be prepared in recipes that call for shellfish. In the future, the startup aims to also make other plant-based crustaceans, like crab and lobster.
7. HOTEL SUITE PROMISES 100% VEGAN EXPERIENCE
London-based design studio Bompas & Parr created a completely plant-based hotel suite in London, reportedly a world first. The Hilton London Bankside suite is entirely vegan, from bedding to mini-bar. The studio sought advice from the UK’s Vegan Society, to create a 100 per cent vegan-friendly experience.
It starts at check-in, where guests are ushered into a special area with vegan-friendly furnishings. Rooms contain leather-like furniture, created with Pinatex, a natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre. Pillows are stuffed with buckwheat or quinoa instead of feathers. The flooring is made from a sustainable type of bamboo. Even the paint and the cleaning supplies used in rooms are vegan and guests can order from an all-vegan menu.
Written By: Holly Hamilton
30th October 2020