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CU Boulder student creates clothing from kombucha

Making sustainable and biodegradable clothing could eventually cut green house gas emissions.

BOULDER, Colo. — What to some might look grody looks like clothing to University of Colorado (CU) Boulder PHD student Fiona Bell. 

Bell recently developed a biodegradable wearable made from Kombucha SCOBY. Kombucha is a fermented tea and SCOBY is the filmy culture that grows in kombucha.

Bell harvests that film and dries it. It essentially becomes a biodegradable leather.

"The material itself is incredibly similar to leather, having similar strength and flexibility properties to animal and plastic based leathers currently on the market," Bell said.

A recent study by CU Faculty Researcher, Maxwell Boykoff, suggests the fashion industry is responsible for about 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Approximately 20 new garments are made for each person every year on this planet and fashion purchases have increased 60 percent since 2000.

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SCOBY clothes would be much more sustainable.

"Some of the benefits of kombucha SCOBY is that it's firstly grown so it's a renewable resource," said Bell. "I think Kombucha leather definitely has the potential to be the textile of the future."

Another plus to the SCOBY leather is that it is biodegradable. When you're done wearing it, you don't throw it in the trash. You compost it just like you would food waste. It will break down in 30 days.

That won't happen wile you're wearing it, because it needs the microbes in the soil to break it down.

It might not be something we'll see on the store shelves next week or even next year. But perhaps someday, we'll all be wearing what we drink.

"I'm hoping that this really encourages people to start growing their own clothing in the future," said Bell.

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