Move over, carbon neutrality — these accessories capture carbon from the air.
Covalent is the latest in luxury bags and accessories that is essentially the “physical manifestation of greenhouse gas,” in the words of Mark Herrema, chief executive officer of Huntington Beach-based biotechnology company Newlight Technologies Inc., which launched the brand.
“[The products] represent carbon that would otherwise be in the air. There’s something really exciting about that, at least to us,” said Herrema, adding that “a lot of people have a really strong desire to do something and a lot of times we don’t have an outlet for that. When you’re wearing these glasses — you feel the weight of that impact.”
“Every element of Covalent — from design to technology — was inspired by the beauty and ingenuity that exists in nature,” said creative director Yotam Solomon. “Not only is the raw material made by life itself, but in our design journey, we have drawn inspiration from bonds, shapes and patterns throughout nature. We’re excited to have created a brand that not only reflects, but works to restore, our planet.”
Along with Covalent, the technology company launched “Restore,” a sustainable foodware brand designed for ocean degradability. But the secret to each brand is Newlight’s bio-material that was 10 years in development called “AirCarbon” which is found in nature and made by combining air and greenhouse gas to replace a range of oil-based materials, like plastics. Essentially, the research pointed to methane-loving micro-organisms in the ocean that create the material within their cells by covalently bonding carbon and oxygen dissolved in saltwater (hence the name “Covalent”).
“We can turn it into everything from fiber, to sheet to solid pieces,” informed Herrema, while detailing the process, which means that after it is grown, the AirCarbon is then purified and dried into a fine powder that can be blended with other materials to create an acetate-like alternative for sunglasses or leather-like substitute for bags.
Covalent’s web site lists it out for what Herrema dubs the intelligent and rightfully “skeptical” consumer of today. While the brand shares the usual information, like place of production, with material development mostly in its facility in Southern California, with other steps performed by seasoned luxury partners in Los Angeles and Italy — there’s much more covered.
Starting with materials, the eyewear resin composition is 78 percent AirCarbon, 10 percent bio-derived dry natural rubber and 12 percent synthetic materials, while the leather-alternative bags are made of 51 percent AirCarbon, 14 percent bio-derived material and 35 percent synthetic EVA.
Be it the minimalist sunglasses, tote bag, clutch or coin purse, Covalent also shares the exact carbon footprint of each product, as verified through life cycle assessments by third-party carbon accounting firms like CarbonTrust and SCS Global Services.
With a tote bag touting a carbon footprint number of minus 16.7 KG CO2E, it means 16,700 grams of CO2 equivalents were diverted from the air. While a pair of sunglasses, for example, measures minus 2.03 KG CO2E, diverting 2,030 grams of CO2 equivalents from the air.
From a carbon capture standpoint, bigger is technically better as the more AirCarbon going into the product, the more it’s capturing from the atmosphere.
The former retails for $500, while the latter is priced around $195 for the women’s Berguson Sunglasses.
For the real numbers-hungry consumers, each product also has its unique “Carbon Date,” an IBM-backed blockchain record to show exactly what time the greenhouse gas in a customer’s Covalent product was converted to AirCarbon. Customers can learn about their product’s provenance on the Covalent homepage.
As Covalent demonstrates, new brands today are prepared from launch to stand out amid the industry clamping down on targets toward carbon neutrality — through embracing regenerative and carbon-negative concepts.
To that point, Herrema added: “I do think it’s important for any and all companies to try to communicate as much as possible about the specific environmental impact of their products.”
While the material is said to be more competitive to plastic in price and performance, getting there was an expensive and lengthy journey.
“We worked very hard to make sure our packaging didn’t bring the product into the positive column,” added Herrema, reflecting on the final leg of an extensive development process. For good measure, Covalent also has post-consumer use covered with mention of a takeback program.