Creating a Launch Pad for Eco Textiles


Transforming spoiled milk, tree bark and honey bee cocoon silk into biodegradable textiles were three of the 10 innovative projects discussed at the Launch 2013 Challenge last week.

Autor*in Jo Wilkinson, 10.09.13

Transforming spoiled milk, tree bark and honey bee cocoon silk into biodegradable textiles were three of the 10 innovative projects discussed at the Launch 2013 Challenge last week.

The Launch challenge is part of the wider Launch project set up by NASA, USAID, Department of State and Nike in 2010 to identify and support visionaries whose world-class ideas, technologies or programs are set to make a tangible impact on the world’s toughest sustainable issues.

The set up of the challenge ran like so: each individual or team was given a one in 10 chance to showcase their idea at the three-day Launch forum and participate in the Launch Accelerator – a six-month program designed to strengthen their strategies, expand their networks and resources, secure funding, and to amplify their potential for global impact. With four challenges already successfully launched (in the areas of Water, Health, Energy and Waste), the focus of this round was to identify innovation around sustainable systems.

The team were looking for projects set to: “transform the system of fabrics to one that advances equitable global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet’s resources,” and recently chose the following ten projects:

QMilk: Uses surplus milk unfit for human consumption to produce a new casein-based fibre as a bio-textile replacement for cotton.

Geckskin: Adhesives inspired by the footpads of lizards that can attach and release effortlessly, repeatedly and quietly without affecting either surface.

Barktex Bark Cloth: A contemporary take on traditional bark cloth, which is produced in a sustainable way from the Ugandan Ficus tree.

Blue Flower Initiative: Reframes the existing textile values chain as a sustainable eco-industrial co-operative, aimed at supporting and empowering at-risk women and reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing.

Artificial Bee Silk: Bio-synthetic silk produced through the fermentation of honey bee cocoon silk that allows industrial volume silk production at room temperature without negative environmental effects.

Ambercycle Recycling: Harnesses engineered enzymes to degrade plastic bottles, such as soda bottles, making plastic recycling both profitable and sustainable for waste-generators and producers.

Benign by Design: Uses unique data collection and analysis to understand the impact of textiles and propel the industry toward cost effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibres.

Mushroom Materials: Works with nature to replace plastics, foams and other harmful materials with completely biodegradable packing and insulation using mushroom materials.

Biocouture: Building an open source ‘bioneer’ community of material innovators to catalyse an explosion of product development in this area.

CRAiLAR Flax Fibres: Uses processing technology to efficiently create a high quality natural flax fibre, nearly indistinguishable from cotton.

These ten companies will work with the LAUNCH team over the next six months and join previous competition winners such as Gram Power – a company helping to eliminate power theft and energy losses as high as 58 percent in India through Smart Grid Technology – to accelerate their innovative projects and covert their ideas into action. 

Author: Jo Wilkinson / RESET editorial

Happy weaving!

As interest in sustainable and fair practices within the textile and fashion industries continues to rise, a raft of eco-conscious companies are finding success matching traditional craftsman techniques with modern business savvy.