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Mark Browne

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Mark Browne
Benign by Design

Organization: University of California at Santa Barbara

What is Benign by Design?

Benign By Design’s unique data-driven process propels the textile industry toward cost effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers.

THE PROBLEM

Clothing fibers are the most abundant form of waste material that we find in habitats worldwide, and the problem is worsening. Ingested and inhaled fibers carry toxic materials and a third of the food we eat is contaminated with this material. In the textile industry, fabrics are generally selected based upon aesthetics, durability, cost, green chemistry and carbon footprints. Still, critical information on their environmental and health impacts is not considered because until now much of the scientific research is unavailable. This has led to the use of unsustainable and hazardous fibers in apparel.

THE INNOVATION

Benign by Design disrupts the current unsustainable pattern by showing companies exactly how textile wear leads to fiber pollution and ways to control their emissions. They developed a trade-off analysis system that rigorously and scientifically selects the most cost effective material with the smallest impact; fabrics that emit fewer fibers and less toxic fibers. The interdisciplinary team of leaders in ecology, Life Cycle Assessment, toxicology, engineering, chemistry, forensics, and ecosystem management provides cutting-edge research to reduce environmental and health impacts of fabrics, including a novel method of fiber quantification (³ 1 µm) in wastewater and animal tissues.

 “Our program will lead to cost-effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers via novel research on how fabrics compare throughout their life cycle.” – Dr. Mark Anthony Browne, National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California Santa Barbara

Stage of Innovation: Concept

THE VISION

Tracing emissions and impacts of fibers over their life cycle will guide sustainable design that builds upon established indices and tools (e.g. Nike’s Apparel Environmental Design tool) currently lacking such data. NCEAS pioneered open-data ecosystems (e.g. DataOne) to enable sharing, collaboration, contribution and unlimited accessibility to environmental data. Using this platform, and connections within the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists, they will find early adopters, and then leverage a case study to achieve certification through the EPA’s Design for Environment Program.

“Our product empowers consumers to make informed choices, enabling them, for the first time, to purchase less hazardous fabrics that shed fewer potentially toxic fibers and chemicals throughout their life cycle.” – Dr. Mark Anthony Browne, National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California Santa Barbara

Download the Benign by Design forum presentation

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