If you visit Cooper Hewitt Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, you may see mannequin wearing a clear plastic raincoat. At first glance, you will notice that this coat seems like any other raincoat found at Walgreens or Target. But in reality, it’s not. The exhibit label reveals that this is no ordinary shield against the elements.
This raincoat which featured in the exhibit Nature – Cooper Hewitt Design Terminal, is actually a carbon negative artwork created from a plastic made from algae. And if you like to buy this stylish raincoat then you cannot because it won’t be hitting stores anytime soon.
Computational and industrial designer, Charlotte McCurdy created the coat for her graduate thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design. The goal to make such type of raincoat is that it will spark a dialogue about how our fashion choices could actively combat climate change. In other words, She wants to offer people hope.
“When we try to offset our carbon output, we tend to create products that transform waste from fossil fuels into useful materials. But that approach still relies on human emissions. “. McCurdy says. She wants to explore ideas that go beyond simply offsetting the damage. To create this raincoat she uses a process known as carbon sequestration (a carbon is pulled directly from the atmosphere and stored as gas or liquid) and grew algae via photosynthesis (process that requires chlorophyll, sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, you might remember this from science class.)
The way McCurday sees it, society is telling the wrong story about plastic. There’s an emphasis on pollution and waste that ends up in the noses of sea turtles, but she argues on plastic’s effect on marine populations “is much stronger through climate change than it is through waste.” She wants to start a conversation about waste intrinsic to the materials we use and wear. We could invite people to talk about what a decarbonised future could look like. “The top-level effect I hope the project has is to create hope,” she says.