Students Make Vegan Wool from Coconut and Hemp

Innovators at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia created wool from a combination of plant-based fibers and enzymes.


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Vegan wool WOOCOA was recently created by students from Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Student Moises Hernandez, Ivan Caballero, Manuel Ortiz, and Ana Andrade developed the vegan textile by combining plant-based fibers sourced from waste coconut shells and hemp, then treating them with mushroom-based enzymes to soften the material. Earlier this year, vegetarian designer Stella McCartney partnered with animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to task students with creating vegan wool during the 2018 Biodesign Challenge held last month. While WOOCOA secured PETA’s prize during the challenge, other participants also created innovated vegan wool products. Students from the Maryland Institute College of Art produced wool from sheep-hair follicles, while a group from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology extracted their own DNA and isolated a protein that they turned into human-based wool. “You take out of the picture the animal, and you are giving back to nature instead of taking things away. It’s an eco-friendly solution that generates job opportunities in Colombia and can help mitigate the environmental impact from the textile industry,” Ortiz told media outlet Smithsonian.com. “But most importantly, we will have a future where no sheep is harmed to make a sweater anymore.”