Like most conscious consumers, I used to think I was doing everything in my power to save the environment: I donated clothing every season, I shopped at second-hand shops, and I try my best to only shop for clothing when I really need it. Since embarking on this journey, I’ve found it quite difficult navigating between socially-minded fashion brands and brands that are using sustainability as a marketing tactic.
Occasionally I’ll purchase an item based on a sustainability claim, only to find out the supply chain isn't entirely sustainable. Researching ethical information (which is often hard to process) can be time-consuming and confusing. It’s made me question why brands can’t actually be transparent with their customers? Lately, I wonder if brands even care about the environment. And apparently, I’m not alone. 57% of consumers are interested in changing their shopping habits to reduce overall environmental impact.
Although I don’t have all the answers, I’m convinced new fashion brand Covalent exists to ease conscious consumers' minds. Through their blockchain technology, they provide shoppers with information showing the impact they make on the environment.
Mark Herrema, the founder of Southern California-based company Newlight Technologies (the parent company of Covalent), set out on a path seventeen years ago to utilize the carbon in the air to make fashionable carbon-negative products.
How Covalent Makes Carbon-Negative Pieces
The result was a material derived from renewable energy, saltwater, and microorganisms found in the ocean that feed on methane and carbon dioxide (two of the biggest contributors to global warming). The organisms turn the gases into a meltable natural polymer that is then shaped or molded to mimic plastic and leather. The fine, white powder material, known as AirCarbon, is entirely carbon-negative—using fewer pollutants to produce it than it takes out of the air.
It wasn’t enough for the brand to manufacture carbon-negative goods. They wanted to provide a traceable way for their audience to prove their environmental-friendly efforts. Before their September 2020 launch, Covalent partnered up with IBM to develop the blockchain tracking system that shows consumers every step of the fabrication process: raw material extraction, transport of raw materials (including transportation to and from manufacturing partners), manufacturing, and packaging, and disposal. This allows them to see the exact carbon footprint of each item purchased.
It wasn’t enough for the brand to manufacture carbon-negative goods. They wanted to provide a traceable way for their audience to prove their environmental-friendly efforts.
Marked with a unique 12-digit timestamp, the 'Carbon Date' can be entered into their website to show the process and carbon footprint from the day it was made through the day it left the warehouse. The carbon date also shows you exactly how much carbon a specific product removes from the environment—giving us a great understanding of how their products are made and how our choices directly impact the environment.
"Our goal was to give people the information they need to decide what kind of impact they want to make," Herrema says. "With IBM Blockchain and LinuxONE technology, we can now provide visibility into not only the steps used to make each Covalent product but also the carbon impact that each specific product has on the environment. For us, that’s important because it helps make tangible the unique pathway that led to the creation of that product."
The Bottom Line
Covalent is very transparent about what they do and how they are not a one-size-fits-all solution to climate change. According to Herrema, they pride themselves on being one option to reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. "These products alone are not going to solve climate change, but what they can do is start to change people's perceptions about what's possible, how carbon can be a force for good, and how there is a quantifiable impact associated with each of our products," he says. "In a best-case scenario, we help accelerate the transition to a world where the specific impact of the products we buy is part of what makes them desirable, and regeneration becomes the gold standard." Herrema says the company is communicating with other brands to revolutionize the fashion industry with AirCarbon.
The brand's collection includes eyewear, handbags, and non-leather leather goods that come in white (natural color of Aircarbon) and black, with new colors releasing soon. Having tested the sunglasses and handbags myself, I’m happy to report on the material's ability to be ultra-lightweight while still durable. The sunglasses—which are produced in Italy—are made with Barberini lenses and look as sleek as competing luxury brands. The handbags are smooth to touch and can hold multiple items like laptops and notebooks while on the go.
If you’re finding it hard to sort through authentic, sustainable brands, look no further than Covalent. Ahead, we share some of our favorite pieces from the brand.
Inspired by the California state flower, Poppy, this handbag is the ultimate luxury, extracting 16.7 kg of carbon dioxide out of the air.
These lightweight sunglasses are as sleek as they are durable. Plus, you can easily clean them with a wipe of a microfiber cloth.
The Penrose Clutch Handbag is a great accessory to hold all your essentials.
Designed for iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone XR, this phone sleeve diverts 1.59 kg of carbon dioxide.