PopTech Ecomaterials Innovation Lab

    A focused look at next-generation sustainable materials innovation

    Materials matter. Everything we touch, taste, wear, drive, drink, eat — all of it is connected to the use, re-use, and ultimate disposal of materials. The health of the planet and the prosperity of its inhabitants rest largely on how we extract and use materials.

    As humanity’s footprint has grown, so too has the amount of materials consumed globally, and particularly in the United States. The average American consumes more than 46,000 pounds of materials in a year. It is difficult to fathom the toll: global warming, desertification, fishery depletion, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, and increased levels of environmental and human toxicity are all potential consequences of our consumptive habits.

    Action is critical. Projections suggest that between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population will grow by 50%, global economic activity will grow 500%, and global energy consumption and materials usage will increase 300%.

    To avoid future collapse, we need a global and national materials strategy that addresses these critical issues. To that end, PopTech and its partners have initiated the PopTech Ecomaterials Innovation Lab, a focused look at next-generation sustainable materials innovation with the goal of identifying the clearest pathways to bringing those materials and systems to scale.

    The first meeting of the Lab

    In July 2010 at Harvard Medical School, the first meeting of the Ecomaterials Lab network brought together 40 of these thought leaders and stakeholders for a facilitated dialogue regarding the drivers, constraints, opportunities, and challenges surrounding next-generation sustainable materials (with a particular emphasis on textiles). The gathering unearthed new insights and areas of disagreement, and helped form a network around sustainable ecomaterials.

    What's next

    The ecomaterials conversation continues. In the coming months, we will be launching initiatives incubated and informed by this network. Follow us on PopTech’s blog where we’ll present some of our findings thus far, introduce you to a few of the remarkable innovators and projects currently in our network, and give you a glimpse into the future of sustainability as we take our ecomaterials work to the next level. We encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas by writing to us at labs@poptech.org.


    Partners in convening the Ecomaterials Innovation Lab include Nike, the world’s leading designer of athletic shoes and apparel and already a leader in sustainable innovation via its Considered Design; and the University of Oregon.

    Nike logo University of Oregon logo