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WHAT IF WHAT YOU WEAR COULD SAVE THE WORLD?

At Green Nettle Textiles, we produce sustainable eco fibres from stinging nettle stalks, grown on non-productive steep slopes by the local community. Our process replaces the degradative farming that happens in these areas, giving the local community an eco-cash crop whilst preventing erosion and bridging the growing gap of sustainable textile supply in market. Nettle shoots and leaves are also successfully used beyond the textile industry, in alternative nutrition and the cosmetic industries.

Kenya is a net importer of textile as second-hand clothes. These clothes are often people’s first choice due to their availability and cheap price, however the disposable nature of second-hand garments means they end up in dumpsites within in a year. Traditional production of new textiles leads to a high level of greenhouse emissions, as well as taking up valuable arable land and water that could be directed to food production - where demand is also increasing.

We aim to reduce cotton and conventional textile demand and reduce the environmental impact from new and second-hand clothes in Kenya and beyond. We ensure our textiles are produced with zero carbon emissions.

FUNDING WOULD ALLOW US TO…

Extra funding would support us not only in market entry and upscaling, but in the development of new technology that makes sustainable materials higher quality and much more affordable.

In a country with less textile production and research, scaling an innovative seed stage venture needs support from every part of the chain, from consumers to designers, researchers and funders. Our business is young and needs this support.

The funding would allow us to acquire a decortication line and spinning mill that will enable us produce linen-like fabrics in 60% less time and bring the cost to a sustainable and affordable threshold. We will also then be able to increase the number of farmers involved in nettle farming, in turn preserving acreages of steep slope land.

MY COMMUNITY INSPIRED ME

I was born in rural Kenya and grew up amongst the farming community. I saw first-hand that as the population increased, local communities were enforced to encroach on steep slopes for farming. The venture was degradative and non-sustainable, leading to soil erosion and river pollution. It also left locals with no returns.

While undertaking a phytoremediation project during my studies, I identified stinging nettle (which is a native crop on steep slopes) to be effective. I researched on its commercialization and we were able to start eco-fibre production from the stalks of the nettles, while the shoot and leaves can be directed to alternative nutrition cosmetic industries. This also meant local farmers had a potential return on the by-products.

For the last nine years I have been in the industry, African fashion has been dominated by the importation of conventional fabrics which are later given African prints. The market has been flooded with easy-to-produce artificial fabric, without any care for the real impact of these fabrics to Africa. Today with start-ups like Green Nettle Textiles, I believe in change. My fashion brand is going eco with assured ground impact to the local producers. I clothe people with a contribution to a better future, and I’m proud to be a changemaker. Zara Textile, Nigeria.

WHAT’S YOUR BLEND FOR SUCCESS?

Our blend for success will be achieved when everyone along the chain benefits from the product. We believe in sustainable and circular beneficial production of textiles. The current process of making and delivering clothing needs to change. We believe in change and are actively working towards it.

We are ensuring our fibres are produced with low-carbon emissions, with everything involved along the chain receiving benefit. We are targeting our production from natural sources and in areas that don’t interfere with food production - which is as just as important to local communities.