Garment factory

The Material Innovation Initiative, a new nonprofit, is trying to speed up the development of sustainable materials for the fashion, automotive and home goods industries.

The group is trying to make those sectors more environmentally friendly with a three-part strategy. The first part is to identify and assess innovative materials and technologies. Investing, researching and developing to scale select innovations is also part of the plan. Thirdly, MII will partner with brands, retailers and suppliers to get sustainable materials to market.

MII is bringing together scientists, entrepreneurs, retailers and consumers to drum up green manufacturing. As things stand, the average consumer throws away 70 pounds of apparel and footwear each year. In addition, the fashion industry contributes 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, due to its long supply chains and energy-heavy production, according to the United Nations Partnership on Sustainable Fashion.

Striving to strengthen the growth of the market for the next generation of materials, MII is setting up an ecosystem with the helps of brands, incubators, entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, academics, mills, material suppliers, retailers and nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit is exploring biological materials like mycelium and new ways to upcycle existing materials. MII also conducts international research to try to get a better handle on consumers’ perception of non-animal and animal-based materials.

The aim is to unite scientists and entrepreneurs to give brands technical know-how and support from authorities. Rawling said, “We can transform the materials industry and solve enormous environmental problems.”

MII’s founders Stephanie Downs and Nicole Rawling each have experience in the plant-based food movement. They are trying to bring animal-free, sustainable options to the fashion industry. Downs, a start-up specialist, was cofounder of Good Dot, a leading plant-based meat company in India. Rawling, an attorney, was most recently director of international engagement at the Good Food Institute.

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