From leather made from mushrooms to clothes-recycling machines and packaging that can be planted to leave green-fingered fashion shoppers with some flowers and herbs after their purchase, Retail Week explores some of the most awe-inspiring sustainability initiatives in the industry.

H&M’s Looop machine

H&M has designed an in-store recycling machine to turn old garments into new.

Located in its Stockholm store, the Looop machine breaks down the fibres from the old item of clothing and creates something new using eight steps including shredding, spinning and knitting the yarn together. 

The only addition to the process is sustainably sourced material to strengthen the yarn and ensure the new garment will stand the test of time.

The system uses no water or chemicals in order to have as little environmental impact as possible.

Bringing the machine into store is also designed to inspire shoppers to think more sustainably.

hm looop

Located in its Stockholm store, H&M’s Looop clothes-recycling machine breaks down fibres to create new garments in just eight steps

H&M head of sustainability Pascal Brun says: “We are constantly exploring new technology and innovations to help transform the fashion industry as we are working to reduce the dependency on virgin resources. Getting customers on board is key to achieve real change and we are so excited to see what Looop will inspire.”

Members of H&M’s loyalty club can pay 100 Swedish Krona (£8.61) in-store to see one of their own garments turned into something new, while non-members pay 150 Swedish Krona (£12.92). All proceeds go towards research on developing sustainable materials.

H&M created the machine in collaboration with the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) and plans to license the technology to the fashion industry more widely to encourage more circular behaviour.

Chipotle’s avocado apparel

Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle unsurprisingly uses a lot of avocados to create its famous guacamole, so has come up with a novel way of making use of the stones.


Chipotle is repurposing the stones from 300 million avocados to naturally dye clothing and textile products

The eaterie launched Chipotle Goods last summer, a collection of “responsibly sourced” and upcycled clothing and accessories using the stones from the 300 million avocados it uses every year as a natural dye. The stones turn clothing varying shades of pink.

The range includes T-shirts, leggings, hoodies, bomber jackets, gym bags, hats, phone cases and baby blankets.

A Chipotle spokesperson told CNN: “Commercial compost isn’t available everywhere and that meant that a lot of avocado pits were potentially destined for landfills each year.”

“We started brainstorming ways we could use our avocado pits for good, and natural dye was something that kept coming up.”

Each piece from the collection is unique, using the dye from five avocado stones to create an individual shade of pink.

Packaging you can plant after use

While the world is in agreement that plastic packaging is bad for the environment, there are a number of initiatives on how to solve the issue.


Pangea Organics wraps its soaps in pulp packaging embedded with seeds, which can be planted

While brands such as Lego have opted for paper and cardboard, which is more widely recyclable, some have started to use plantable packaging.

Beauty brand Pangea Organics wraps its soaps in pulp packaging embedded with seeds.

Once unwrapped, customers can soak the packaging in water and place it in soil to grow plants such as basil and amaranth.

Similarly, sustainable athleisure brand Tala has also made use of plantable tags on its products with the type of seeds changing each season.

Customers who choose to plant their tags have previously grown sunflowers, basil and fennel.

Plantable packaging ensures there is no waste whatsoever from online deliveries and has the added bonus of delighting customers with a surprise new plant.

Era Zero Waste’s home-delivered refillables

Zero-waste shopping has become more popular recently, with refillable stations popping up in independent stores as well as Waitrose and Asda aisles.

Initiatives of this ilk rely on shoppers schlepping to stores with a raft of containers. 


Era Zero Waste has brought waste-free grocery shopping to the online world – all packaging is either reusable or compostable

Sustainable retailer Era Zero Waste has brought waste-free grocery to the online world. The firm, which only sells goods from local farmers and shops, delivers zero-waste products direct to the home. All packaging is either reusable or compostable.

Going one step further, Era Zero Waste is seeking to set up a milkman-like service for health and beauty products such as shampoo and hand soap – when it builds a big enough customer base.

The service will allow shoppers to refill products directly from a bike-run refill station outside their homes.

 Adidas’ mushroom-leather trainers

Vegan alternatives to traditional leather trainers have become a part of retailers’ offerings over the past few years, with the likes of Superdry and Dr Martens launching vegan ranges.

However, Adidas has joined the likes of Lululemon and Stella McCartney to invested in Mylo, a vegan leather alternative formed using mushrooms. The material is made using mycelium, the part of the fungus that extends below the ground.


Adidas has joined Stella McCartney and Lululemon to invest in Mylo – a plant-based leather alternative made using mushrooms

The partnership between the retail consortium and Mylo’s manufacturer Bolt Threads will mean each brand has a hand in developing the material in exchange for access to it.

The funghi-based material is tipped to be a leading trend in 2021 and Adidas has revealed that its first trainer collection made from Mylo will be launched later this year, although an exact date has yet to be confirmed.

This is a continuation of the sportswear brand’s sustainability drive. In 2020 Adidas produced 15 million pairs of shoes from recycled plastic collected from the oceans and beaches. 

  • Bolt Threads CEO Dan Widmaier is speaking at Retail Connected in April. See the full speaker line-up and register here