A former yoga instructor has created a company that sells yoga wear derived from waste: specifically, plastic bottles, coffee grounds, and crab shells. San Franciscan Melissa Chu started RUMI X in 2015 in response to the foundations of yoga that encourage a connection between ourselves and the world around us. Since then, she's been teaming up with processing facilities that can turn everyday garbage and food waste into vibrant, comfortable, and sensible active wear suitable for yogis, workout enthusiasts, and couch potatoes who like to loaf around in something soft.
Research suggests that the apparel industry is poised for a new leader, as active wear is set to give even denim a run for its money by 2020 with a sales market of $83 billion.
Leading the active wear march is yoga gear. With yoga class participation soaring, everyone wants to look the part: with fancy yoga bags, designer leggings, and tank tops that will cost you a full day of pay. Nosing out of that abyss are new companies touting sustainable fabrics, recycled materials, and sustainability that’s in lock-step with the mindful teachings of yogi philosophy.
“RUMI X was born out of my three passions: spirituality, yoga, and nature,” Chu says on the RUMI X website. “Blending these elements is what ultimately inspired the brand. I wanted to develop something that spoke to the devotion of my practice and honor my source of energy from spirituality, while simultaneously ensuring that our products were environmentally impactful and contributing to the solution, not being part of the problem. RUMI X is about living a mindful lifestyle, taking care of yourself within, and being good to the world around you. We take care of our body, mind, and soul, and we take care of others around us to feel good.”
OK—but how exactly do plastic bottles turn into leggings?
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To make yoga wear from plastic bottles is no easy task. First, the bottles are collected and shipped over to a recycling facility. There, all packaging is removed and the bottles are shredded, melted down, and then dried into flakes. Those flakes then get pulled into yarn, and the rest is per usual.
For coffee ground sports bras, coffee shops fill collection vessels with grounds that get shipped over to a processing facility. There, the grounds are washed and dried. Then oils are extracted from the grounds with a high-heat carbonization process that’s totally eco-friendly and removes all residual coffee odor. Next up, the grounds are shaped into little balls that get turned into recycled, raw threads to be spun into yarn.
Chu is in the process of working with another company that will help her turn another discarded item—crab shells—into fabric. Bavarian scientists have already figured out how to extract chitin, a natural biopolymer, from crab shells for fibers. Chu sees a bright future for these fibers, which are actually extremely soft.
RUMI X’s recycled threads offer insanely powerful odor control, protection against UV rays, and moisture-wicking properties. In fact, RUMI X’s website claims the coffee grounds-based material has three times the odor control of cotton or polyester, 50 percent more moisture-wicking skills, and five times the UV protection of cotton.
Granted, there better be some magical elements to a pair of $78 leggings. But it’s definitely refreshing to see a yoga-related company that’s actually walking the walk and actively protecting the world around it. For RUMI X, it’s not just about having the right look when you slide into the lotus pose; it’s about actually making the world a less-polluted place, keeping things out of the waste stream, and recycling instead of processing new.
Focusing on your breath is one thing—focusing on the world that gave you that breath is a whole other, noble endeavor.