Most plastics today are made from fossil fuels, which are formed from the carbon-rich remains of prehistoric marine plants and algae that thrived on “ancient sunlight,” as McCurdy puts it. Thinking about these materials as ancient sunlight raised a question for McCurdy: What would happen if we made them out of “present-tense sunlight”?
“If our materials were the product of photosynthesis happening now, not only could we reduce our dependence on ancient carbon, we could store our current carbon in our materials,” she explains. “We have guilt about consumption. We’ve told each other that the moral thing to do is to reduce our consumption. Well, how’s that going?” Instead of the endless guilt trips, McCurdy sees a better path forward through the development of materials that are actively helping combat climate change by metabolizing atmospheric carbon, such as plant matter.
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