Feb. 16 is Innovation Day. The Science History Institute and the Society of Chemical Industry established it to celebrate and acknowledge inventors and inventions that have pushed science and technology to new heights. Innovation is defined as “a new idea, method, or device,” but it’s much more than that. It’s why human beings have evolved for thousands of years, from the discovery of fire to the industrial revolution and the internet.
The first patents for nylon, fruit trees, and ironing boards were issued on Feb. 16, so the day clearly exudes entrepreneurial spirit. To celebrate, we’re highlighting some innovative, sustainability-focused trends from the past year.
Environmental advocates have pointed out that the fashion industry needs to transition to more climate-friendly processes. Footwear and apparel brands are responsible for about 8–10% of global carbon emissions, which are mainly from supply chains and production. Many companies are transitioning to alternative materials for fabrics and jewelry.
Many vegan-leather options don’t quite feel the same as the real thing, but mycelium-based alternatives are shaking up the fashion industry. Biotech startup MycoWorks takes the root structure of mushrooms to create its “fine mycelium.” Big industry players like Adidas and Lululemon have both announced mushroom-based products.
Natural diamond mining has a long history of violence, human rights violations, environmental harm, and other issues. An increasing number of companies and brands are turning to lab-grown alternatives.
New York startup Aether Diamonds is taking lab-grown gemstones a step further by creating them from carbon dioxide.
Aether removes about 20 metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere for every carat produced, meaning a single-carat diamond would remove more than a year of an average American’s emissions.
New Spins on Old Classics
Some classics, like Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9,” can never be replicated or improved upon, but vintage toys are a different story. In fact, you might have missed your favorite childhood toy getting an earth-friendly remake.
Hungarian architecture professor Ernõ Rubik invented the Rubik’s Cube in 1974. Before long, millions of children around the world were struggling to make one side the same color. In 2023, the game company Spin Master introduced the world to the Rubik’s Re-Cube: the first 100% recycled Rubik’s 3×3 Cube.
Sticking with the theme of block-style, colorful famous children’s toys, LEGO is building carbon-neutral factories in Virginia and Vietnam. The toymaker, which produces about 125 million individual LEGO pieces daily, has recently been focused on creating a more sustainable supply chain for its products. The company pledged to only use recycled or renewable materials in all packaging by 2025 and make all core products from sustainable materials by 2030.
Toymaker Mattel is throwing a curveball at Barbie and Ken: Dr. Jane Goodall. The company partnered with the legendary conservationist to create her own Barbie doll sourced from recycled, ocean-bound plastic.
Mattel is looking to transition to fully renewable materials by 2030 and hopes to inspire future generations of kids with its new line of conservation and sustainability-focused professions.
Innovation can come in all shapes and sizes, whether a Nobel-award-winning invention or a slightly better version of a past product. At its core, it is a long chain of ideas, experiments, reiterations, and discoveries connected to older inventions, findings, and ideas.
Thomas Edison’s version of the lightbulb improved and expanded on the ideas and creations of other inventors. We are stagnant and unchanging without others to inspire, excite, and challenge us. Innovation means that no matter how small an idea may seem, it might actually change the world.