Lululemon plans to make leggings from plants

People around the world have swapped their jeans and khakis for comfy leggings and joggers—but activewear, which is largely made from petroleum-based materials like nylon and polyester, damages the planet. It does not biodegrade, but rather breaks into tiny fragments that end up in oceans and the food chain. And the process of extracting oil and manufacturing these fibers spews greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, fueling climate change.

As the world confronts global warming, Lululemon is working to find more sustainable materials for its products. The $4.4 billion giant announces today that it has made an undisclosed investment in the bioengineering company Genomatica to produce nylon that is made from plants rather than petroleum. Lululemon says that this bio-based nylon can easily be plugged into its supply chain, so the brand can start using it immediately with the goal of switching entirely to renewable or recycled nylon over the next nine years.

It’s part of a broader trend in the fashion world of moving away from petroleum to plant-based products. But while this is an improvement over the status quo, it’s not necessarily a clear-cut win for the planet: Bio-based plastics are often not biodegradable, and more work needs to be done to quantify their environmental impact.