Most black ink is made of carbon that’s terrible for the planet. Vollebak’s black algae ink is the opposite.
We have all become aware of fashion's enormous carbon footprint but black clothing is particularly bad for the planet. Particularly as black is perhaps the most popular colour in fashion, appearing in everything from little black dresses to classic black tees.
The reality is that most black pigment comes from a material called carbon black which is made by incompletely burning heavy petroleum. This produces fine black particles, which are then used to do things like create printing inks, dye clothes, and reinforce tires. But manufacturing carbon black is bad for the planet. Excavating fossil fuels and burning them contributes to global warming.
Vollebak, an innovative UK clothing label, has succeeded in developing an eco-friendly solution to black clothing. It’s partnered with a U.S. biomaterials company called Living Ink to create a pigment from algae used to produce the $110 Algae Black Shirt, which launches this week. In contrast to carbon black, algae is actually good for the environment because it absorbs carbon dioxide through photosynthesis while producing oxygen.
The hope is that the fashion industry can replace carbon black with black algae at scale, thus reducing the sector’s enormous carbon footprint. “Algae is a fascinating material for many reasons, including that it stores carbon,” says Steve Tidball, Vollebak’s cofounder and CEO. “You would have to use it at a mass scale to store a lot of carbon, so for this project what we are most interested in is proof of concept.”