One week ago I attended the Climate Launchpad Grand Final event in Cyprus. This event is the “world’s green business competition,” and it brought together 3 finalists from dozens of countries from Kenya, Australia, UK, Europe, and beyond. The crowd of about 500 was literally buzzing with energy: hundreds of participants were part of the competition, and all businesses were focused on making a carbon impact.
There were heaps of cool companies, and over the next few days I’m going to share some interviews and articles with those that I thought were exceptionally interesting. One of the companies I was most excited about was Vienna Textile Lab, based in Austria. They formulate textile dyes from bacteria, creating a sustainable and safe solution to a huge problem. I was particularly drawn to their business because it addresses three huge problems in the textile industry: human impact, ecological impact, and carbon impact.
I wasn’t the only one that thought this business model was awesome: Vienna Textile Lab won the Audience Choice award AND they won Third Place in the final competition.
The textile industry is in desperate need of innovation. A deep dive into the issues with the textile industry is beyond the scope of this article, but one of the largest concerns is the array of ecological issues posed by the textile industry, specifically dyes. Vienna Textile Lab has a solution that can significantly reduce the impact of textile dyes.
Textile dyes are almost always synthesized from coal-tar and petroleum-based intermediates, and as Karin says in the interview below, using petrochemicals is not really the best use of these limited fossil fuel resources.
Further, these dyes are of “toxicological concern” as the dyes can essentially off-gas and you can absorb them while wearing. These same dyes, as you can imagine, are toxic to those that work with textiles and dyes, too. During textile processing, these dyes and other chemicals are often flushed into local waterways, contaminating water for humans and animals. In fact, researchers have found that, “The wastewater from textile plants is classified as the most polluting of all the industrial sectors.”
Cleary, a strong, sustainable textile dye solution is in order. The team at Vienna Textile Lab is using a simple but unique process to synthesize bacteria to create vibrant dyes that can be used on clothing. Watch my exclusive interview below with Karin and Bettina after their win at Climate Launchpad in Cyprus, October 17–18, 2017.
Orange river image from Ecouterre; image of Karin and Bettina from Climate Launchpad. Thanks to Kyle Field for filming and editing the interview and sharing some giggles over audio!
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