Short and interesting read from fastcoexist.com discussing Young-A Lee’s leather alternative.
Lee’s tea-derived fibers are completely biodegradable, so they can become as ephemeral as the fashion cycle that they serve. The cellulose fibers are brewed in a vat and fed with vinegar and sugar. Lee and her team have received a research grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to spin these fibers into clothing. The biggest advantage, apart from not being made out of cow peelings, is that it has an extremely low environmental impact. There are no harmful chemicals to leach into the ground, for instance, and the materials are about as renewable as it’s possible to be.
There are many practical problems with Lee’s tea leather, though. It’s susceptible to moisture, which softens it, and cold, which hardens it to the point of brittleness. It also takes up to four weeks to grow and prepare a batch, although compared to growing and feeding a cow, this is almost instant. The process only seems slow when compared to other artificial fibers.
But perhaps the biggest challenge in making fashion more sustainable is educating those in the industry to take the problem seriously.