UK-based apparel brand Vollebak launched its Plant & Algae t-shirt, which will decompose once the wearer is finished with it. The shirt’s material is made from a combination of sustainably-certified wood pulp, while the 3D-printed ink is made from algae. The algae oxidizes as the shirt is worn, meaning the print on the front of the t-shirt naturally decolors over time. Customers can compost or bury the garment outside when they no longer want to wear it; if buried, the t-shirt will decompose in 12 weeks. There is currently a waiting list to purchase the USD 110 shirt, which was released in late August.
Wow...how incredible is this innovation?! The wait-list-level demand shows consumers think so too! But it also contains two insights that will be of profoundly long-lasting value to those organizations that run with them:
The Material World. Textile waste made up 7.6% of all landfill waste in the US, or over 10 million tons. You might have heard how guilt-laden fashionistas are embracing reselling and thrifting platforms in their quest to be able to still constantly flaunt fresh outfits, without the financial or environmental costs. But even reused or shared products will eventually end up in the trash. Which is why people are increasingly focused on the underlying eco-credentials of the raw materials of the products they consume. The good news? We’re seeing many exciting and novel solutions: from Notpla’s edible water ‘pods’, to Solar Foods’ protein powder made from CO2 (!), to Berkeley Labs’ infinitely recyclable plastic, to Arborea’s algae-powered solar panels… So don’t delay! Are you still using raw materials that leave a negative environmental impact? Is there a new and transformative eco-friendly alternative that you could switch to?
Adaptive design. Another noteworthy feature of this shirt’s design is how oxidization continually changes the way it looks. People have been so conditioned by the dynamic nature of the digital world that they now expect physical products to be as constantly changing, too. The Plant & Algae t-shirt’s adaptive design offers its wearers a novel eco-status story. But there are many dimensions behind the adaptive design trend: The Shoe that Grows is designed to help those in poverty. Shiseido’s Optune is an at-home skincare system that analyzes daily changes in users’ skin to tweak its formula. Every. Single. Day. Could your brand design a product or service that lasts longer, or gets more relevant over time?