Life after carbon

Post Carbon Lab
United Kingdom (London)

Fashion just got nerdy – and all the better for it. Post Carbon Lab are opening up the possibilities that science creates for fashion that goes beyond sustainable, to be regenerative. They’re working towards creating clothes that are, as the name suggests, part of a post-carbon-emission world – where clothes can be a solution rather than a problem. 

“Our approach,” explains co-founder Dian-Jen Lin, “is to try to answer the question: what is the ecological role of fashion? Coming from a more positive side, and not just trying to mitigate and offset the footprint of possible waste by planting trees elsewhere.”

Dian-Jen Lin & Hannes Hulstaert

The Post Carbon Lab team have developed a photosynthetic coating that can be applied to textiles to turn them into clothes that capture carbon. The coating is a living layer of photosynthetic microorganisms, that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen – so that clothes can act like plants and actively contribute to carbon reduction. One treated large T shirt can generate as much oxygen as a young tree under optimal conditions, but with a much shorter maturing time.

Dian-Jen has found that this is particularly important for people in urban areas, where people want to be part of climate solutions but find there are barriers to taking part. Post Carbon Lab wanted to create a solution that city-dwellers can easily be part of, and weave into their everyday lives without major time commitments. 

Dissecting Microscopy © 2020

Asking important questions at the design stage, Dian-Jen says, can open up possibilities for transforming the harmful systems we currently operate within.  “With a background in the fashion and design industry for the past decade, we often question the purpose of our creations — why design and make in a stuff-saturated world? We noticed that plenty of the existing systems and infrastructures have become unfit and almost obsolete for the futures that we envision. This is why we are a laboratory, a testing ground, for not just bio-manufacturing, design and fashion but also to explore alternative forms of existence in better ecological, economic, cultural and societal contexts that we hope to nourish.” The most sustainable fashion possible, Dian-Jen wants to remind us, are the items already in our closet. We need to appreciate what we already own and consider buying first-hand items as a last resort. 

AtlasAction: Interested in a bio-upgrade for textile products you own? Contact the team for a bespoke bio-dye/coat project and support their research by joining the Post Carbon Community through Patreon to get exclusive newsletters and goodies.

Photosynthesis Coated Bag © 2020

Written by

Becca Warner (01 October 2020)

Project leader

Dian-Jen Lin & Hannes Hulstaert


Post Carbon Lab is one of the finalists in 2020’s European Social Innovation Competition, which is organised by the European Commission, with the support of a consortium of organisations. The consortium is led by Nesta Challenges and includes Kennisland, Ashoka Spain, the European Network of Living Labs, and Scholz & Friends. ‘Reimagine Fashion: Changing behaviours for sustainable fashion’ calls on applicants to find new, creative ways to reduce the overall environmental footprint and improve the societal impact of the fashion market, so that we can bring the joy back into fashion, without the harm.

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