That weird residue that's always chilling at the bottom of your kombucha? Yeah, you're going to want to save that—and then turn it into cute clothes like the vest pictured above.



You Can Now Use Your Next Kombucha to Make Sustainable Clothes

The miracle worker, kombucha tea, which has been raved about for its amazing health benefits, is now entering the world of fashion. Well, sort of; an Iowa State professor has started using leftovers of the tea to create leather-like fabric for vests, shoes, and more.

Kombucha is not your typical green or black tea: it is created from SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), the remaining residue of which is usually thrown out after the tea is finished brewing. It was only after Professor Young-A Lee noticed that the SCOBY byproduct becomes leathery when dry, however, that she began making a name for herself outside of her title as professor of apparel, merchandising, and design.

Pictured here is your average batch of harvested and dried cellulosic fiber. Looks kind of like fruit leather, non?

Now, thanks to a grant given by the Environmental Protection Agency, Lee and her research team have begun making clothing and shoes using the harvested gel-like fibers from the tea. What’s more: Lee and her team found that the byproduct—a cellulosic fiber that’s been tested for other uses such as in food, biomedical tissue, and cosmetics—is 100% biodegradable. That’s good news both for people trying to champion sustainability in fashion and for the world.

Over the past decade, sustainability has become more and more of a hot topic in the fashion industry. And when you consider the ever-increasing amount of clothes that continue to pile up in landfills, it makes sense. Designers have tried to combat this issue, using everything from candy wrappers to plastic containers to prove that eco-friendly fashion is not only possible, but has the potential to look pretty cute too.

Hard to believe, but these oxfords were made of kombucha.

While Lee has begun talking to different companies that make kombucha tea about harvesting their byproduct, her team has begun searching for natural dyes in other discarded foods that they can use on the kombucha-based clothing, as well as ways in which they can strengthen the fiber. So who knows? Your tea time might be looking a lot cuter very soon.

Stay tuned to Milk for more sustainable fashion. 

Images via National Geographic and Iowa State University. 

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