Here's a little known fact for you: cow farts are slowly roasting the world.
No, really. According to the latest science, the "emissions" from the world's 1.5 billion or so cows is seriously contributing to climate change. New estimates suggest that our bovine friends added some 119.1 million tons of methane to the atmosphere in one year alone. And methane is one of the most potent gases when it comes to driving climate change.
So what do we do about it? We could all give up beef and dairy or invest in a massive international push to develop and deploy cow Gas-X, but one San Francisco-based startup may have come up with a more practical solution. Mango Materials is turning all those cow farts into a biodegradable material that can be incorporated into polyester and other textiles.
Coming soon to your closet: recycled cow farts
"The process involves feeding methane to bacteria, which then produce a biodegradable polymer (polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA). This polymer can be spun into polyester fabric and used for clothing, carpets, and possibly packaging, although the company is most focused on the garment industry right now," reports blog Treehugger.
That's potentially awesome for a couple of reasons. First, for those concerned about global warming it could offer an economically viable way to capture and use the gases that are cooking the planet. "If we increase the value of waste methane, that could change the whole story of carbon in the atmosphere, because we'd be collecting it and sequestering it into products... Instead of using ancient fossil carbons to make materials, you're using something that you already have," Dr. Molly Morse, Mango Materials CEO, told Fast Company.
It's also good news for those who are more worried about the vast quantities of plastic clogging our landfills and oceans (and also emitting more methane as they degrade).
"If a bio-polymer T-shirt gets tossed in a landfill, it will biodegrade fully. If the methane released by degradation is captured, it can be converted back into new material. If the T-shirt ends up in the ocean (where plastic microfiber pollution is a very serious issue), it will also biodegrade or be consumed by marine organisms that will digest it naturally. In other words, the technology offers a completely closed-loop, cradle-to-cradle cycle," explains Treehugger.
While actually seeing these miraculous T-shirts in stores is still awhile away -- "A handful of apparel and textile companies are testing the product now, and the startup is raising money to scale up to full production," reports Fast Company -- the company's progress thus far is still good news for those who are both fashion- and environmentally-conscious. One day soon filling up your closet with these innovative garments may actually become one way to do your part to fight climate change.