A Change Is Gonna Come

Seaweed to replace polyester

We’re going through changes.

Victoria Cook

Everybody’s got a dream, right? Martin Luther King had a famous one, Fleetwood Mac wrote a song about them and when Mary Shelley had a dream on holiday in Switzerland she wrote it up into the world’s first sci-fi novel ‘Frankenstein.’ Aside from my favourite dream (Jason Momoa and a bottle of massage oil) we at Inland Sea are dreaming big dreams right now that have changed the way we work and our plans for the future. We’d like to talk to you about pivots, asking difficult questions and trying to achieve dreams that look impossible to everyone else.

Back in 2017, our dream was to find a way to combat the plastic pollution that ends up in our oceans and landfills. Adam set up Inland Sea, as an antidote to the fast fashion movement, promoting slow clothing made from sustainable and repurposed materials, supporting communities and garment workers. The original question we posed when first starting Inland Sea was ‘Can we make the most sustainable, planet friendly, kind clothing at an affordable price?’ Four years later, we’ve achieved that goal and so lately we’ve found ourselves wondering how we can take this further.

Last year in lockdown, with the kids finally in bed, we sat down with a brew for our weekly meeting and set ourselves a new challenge ‘as well as saving plastic and non-recyclable materials from landfill, how can we actually prevent new clothing from getting there in the first place?’ Big dreams for a little company. But we’d achieved our first dream with the odds stacked against us, so why not set ourselves a challenge that we’d dreamt of finding the answer to for so many years. The biggest problem was, we had no idea where to start. By sheer chance, a few days later we had a podcast interview with a seaweed farmer and our world turned upside down. Throughout our chat we learned about how incredibly environmentally friendly seaweed is to farm, how it sequesters carbon, requires no additional water or land to farm and how it produces minerals that are good for your body. Although we were skeptical about the claims, we felt a little glimmer of excitement.

For weeks afterward I’d wake up to the glow of Adam’s phone in the early hours of the morning catching him reading articles about seaweed instead of sleeping. Books about seaweed took place on our shelves. I’d watch Adam writing in his notepad, the pages surrounded by doodles of seaweed. We made seaweed curry (very tasty with sugar kelp) and began talking to people all over the world from the seaweed industry. Seaweed farmers, marine biologists, film makers. I can honestly say if you’d told me in 2019 that I’d be locked in my house while a deadly virus swept the globe choosing to look at research papers on historical uses of seaweed over binging boxsets of ‘Modern Family’ I would of laughed in your face. Although I did manage to squeeze in an episode or twenty of that too. One night as we lay in bed Adam turned and asked me ‘Would it be crazy to try and make t-shirts out of seaweed?’ He thought he may have found a way to do it using a Greenpeace accredited factory. He spent the next few months speaking to seaweed experts and clothing manufactures and setting up a kickstarter to find the money to make a completely biodegradable t-shirt.

Cut to today and I’m sitting in our shop looking at 200 sealed plastic free biodegradable packets full of ultra soft, biodegradable seaweed t-shirts just waiting to be posted to the two hundred and seventeen backers that signed up to our kickstarter last year. And this is just the beginning. We’d spent a year taking a crash course in seaweed and were finding more and more ways that the green slimy stuff we’d written off as beach waste could be a key to solving the climate crisis. We wanted to use everything we’d learned over the last year to explore more ways we could work with seaweed to harness it's environmentally gentle powers and help turn the tide on the future climate crisis. Which brings us to our current challenge. We’ve learned that seaweed can be used as a plastic substitute (See our article on seaweed packaging for more info) but can it be used as a polymer to replace polyester? It may sound a little left field right now but I’m sure when the Wright brothers sat down to dinner with their mum in 1903 and described how they were trying to build the first ever engine propelled flying machine, she laughed so hard she choked on her Mac and cheese.

If we can find a way to do this the repercussions for our planet would be huge. Is it possible? We believe it is.  We're keen to hear from anyone who is interested in working with us on this, if you are an aquaculture scientist or textile technologist or just share our super passion to use seaweed in clothing, we'd love to hear from you.

Email us;  info@inlandsea.co.uk