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Lululemon debuts shirts made from plant-based nylon

Walking Down the Runway of Sustainability
Walking Down the Runway of Sustainability 06:24

Lululemon is launching a T-shirt made from plant-based nylon, part of the activewear company's commitment to making its business completely sustainable by 2030.

The company on Tuesday announced the renewably sourced products for men and women, made in partnership with sustainable materials firm Genomatica. Together, the companies used biotechnology and fermentation to convert plant-based ingredients into the building blocks that make up nylon. 

Nylon is typically produced using petroleum from coal, natural gas or crude oil, fossil fuels known to worsen global warming. Lululemon's new shirts will instead be produced with biological-based microorganisms. 

Lululemon's first two plant-based nylon products include the "Nylon Metal Vent" shirt for men and "Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve" shirt for women, which became available for purchase Tuesday. 

The renewably sourced T-shirts are Lululemon's first products made with plant-based nylon.  Lululemon

The shirts sells for $78 for men and $68 for women, matching the retail cost of versions made from conventional materials. The short-sleeved shirts are made from 50% biologically sourced nylon, 40% recycled polyester and 3% elastane. The elastane component is made of 30% plant-based content.

The t-shirts retail for between $68 and $78, and are available for purchase. Lululemon

Lululemon first partnered with Geno through an equity investment in the company in 2021. 

"Today marks a major achievement: Biotechnology has successfully fermented plant sugars into the chemical building blocks used to make nylon, bringing to life a renewable, plant-based nylon," Geno founder Christophe Schilling said in a statement. 

The garment industry is one of the most pollutive in the world, accounting for an estimated 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions — more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, according to a 2019 World Bank report. By another measure, in 2018 the sector produced more than 2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas — about 4% of the global total, according to McKinsey & Co.

As a result, a number of apparel companies are moving to make their manufacturing processes more environmentally friendly. Lululemon's other efforts to improve the sustainability of its business include last year's launch of a "Like New" resale program, which allows customers to buy and sell used Lululemon apparel at a discount. 

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