Over the last ten years, sustainable shoes have become a hot topic. We’re moving away from an era where the footwear industry only paid lip-service to the environment and into one in which ecological sustainability is paramount. Consumers are demanding it.
The statistics of the industry’s environmental impact are shocking. The sector is responsible for generating some 700 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – the equivalent of 1.4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And research suggests that textile treatment facilities are responsible for over 20 percent of industrial waterway contamination worldwide, releasing harmful products into the environment. Practically all major brands are implicated in some way.
Extraction and depletion of non-renewable materials is also an issue. Modern shoes aren’t made to last. What’s more, they may be toxic. Products contain all sorts of plastics and chemicals that can potentially cause ongoing environmental damage. For instance, harmful compounds, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), destroy natural ecosystems and cause cancer, while ethylene vinyl acetate, used in trainer shock absorbers, takes a millennium to break down, polluting the environment for generations to come.
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What Are Sustainable Shoes/Sneakers?
Sustainable shoes are products designed to address all of the above environmental concerns. Their goals include:
- Using digital design to save production lead-time and carbon footprint
- Browsing online fabric platforms to save time and money like Material Exchange and swatchbook.
- Reducing the use of non-degradable plastics
- Avoiding toxic and harmful chemicals
- Reducing the CO2 embodied in products
- Using recycled materials
- Using materials that will not deplete resources
- Minimizing toxic waste
- Building shoes that will last
- Using less water
- Generating less water pollution
- Not animal testing
- Supporting habitat conservation
At present, no sustainable shoe company is addressing all of these issues simultaneously, but they are getting close. Brands are building vertical supply chains that allow them to monitor all nodes in the system, improving their oversight.
Know more about why you have to choose eco friendly fabric
How Brands Benefit From Sustainable Shoes
Being more sustainable sounds like extra expense – and in many cases, it is. However, many brands now view it as an investment because of the benefits that it brings.
Here are some of the reasons why you should choose to make more sustainable shoes:
It’s What Consumers Want
Sustainable fashion is top-of-mind for many consumers. McKinsey research finds that 65 percent of consumers want to purchase more durable items while 57 percent are willing to repair their items to prolong their use. Consumers are also becoming increasingly interested in buying second hand items.
According to research by the FDRA, 64 percent of consumers say that they are willing to pay more for sustainable footwear. More specifically, 35 percent of people say that they would pay $1 to $5 more for sustainable shoes, 16 percent say they would pay $6 to $10 more and 13 percent say they would pay more than $10 more.
It Supports Animal Welfare
In the past, consumers didn’t have much choice about what their footwear was made of: unless they were willing to wear clogs, shoe production involved killing animals, usually cattle. However, today things are changing. The sustainable shoe movement is making it possible for consumers to buy shoes that not only avoid inflicting pain on living creatures, but are also good for the planet.
Shoe manufacturers can apply for vegan status from PETA to encourage consumers who want to support animal welfare to buy their products. Currently, there are several dozen consumer-facing brands recognised by the animal rights organization, with more to follow.
Vegan shoes do not inflict cruelty on animals in any aspect of their production. Specifically, they avoid:
- Using animal-derived materials
- Exploiting animals in production
- Testing on animals
- Deriving raw materials from locations likely to result in the destruction of habitats
It Reduces Water Consumption
Major global footwear brands consume vast quantities of water. Data from The Sustainable Business Group, suggests that it takes between 10,000 and 20,000 liters of water to grow just one kilogram of raw cotton – a common footwear material. Moreover, textile dyeing may require an additional 100 to 150 liters of water per kilogram of fiber.
Water is a precious natural resource. The Aral Sea in Central Asia is now 10 percent of its former size, thanks to water extraction by local cotton farmers.
Sustainable shoes use materials that don’t rely so heavily on water-intensive crops or production processes. They look for ways to cut down on water consumption and preserve freshwater stores for future generations.
It Cuts Down On Plastic Waste
Research suggests that people throw away around 300 million pairs of shoes every year. Many of these contain crude-oil-derived plastics that don’t biodegrade easily, leading to environmental devastation.
Sustainable shoes, however, cut down on plastic waste. They use more Earth-friendly and recycled materials while also reducing scrap (leftover cuttings from shoe production).
It Boosts Team Morale
Just like consumers, today’s employees are also environmentally-conscious consumers. As such, they increasingly want to work for sustainable brands.
Research suggests that more than 70 percent of workers prefer to work for a firm that cares about the environment. A further 10 percent say that they would be willing to take a significant pay cut if their employer behaved more eco-consciously.
Because of this, choosing to go sustainable can help shoe brands improve team morale. Colleagues feel good about company operations when they believe that they are not harming the natural world.
It Gives You Personal Satisfaction
Lastly, as a business leader, you don’t want to run or manage a company that harms the environment. Just like everyone else, you want to do your bit to protect nature.
Therefore, switching to sustainable shoe production could provide you with personal satisfaction. Running a company knowing that you’re not damaging the environment, harming species’ habitats, or causing cruelty to animals is a great feeling.
What has ARIAPRENE®, done to save the environment?
At ARIAPRENE®, we don’t expect footwear manufacturers to make sustainable footwear alternatives all by themselves. That’s why we’ve spent many years developing what we call our “environmentally correct” foam product.
ARIAPRENE is a combination of a synthetic rubber core mixed with a foam material made of TPE. The product is a movement towards more sustainable materials and away from environmentally harmful products, such as neoprene. The manufacturing process is more environmentally friendly and the product itself is free from toxins.
ARIAPRENE® developed its toxic-free foam with solvent-free lamination from the ground up. It originated as a performance material for footwear, but has now evolved beyond this to many other applications, such as apparel and equipment.
ARIAPRENE® helps the environment by using water-based adhesive lamination technology. This patented technique is as strong as the leading solvent-based compounds but doesn’t damage the natural world. It is now recognized as a new class of material, striking a balance between the commercial interests of firms, and the need for environmental protection.
Compared to alternatives, such as PU foam and EVA, ARIAPRENE® retains its versatility. The closed-cell foam allows manufacturers to design different finishes while giving it an opaque finish. It is also lightweight and flexible, making it suitable for a wide variety of footwear products.
ARIAPRENE® also solves other environmental issues. Products using it are built to last, reducing the burden on landfill. It is also much less reliant on water usage, unlike traditional foam shoe fillers. While it is not 100 percent sustainable, it goes a long way in that direction.
ARIAPRENE® In Footwear/Sneakers
ARIAPRENE® isn’t just a nice-sounding concept – it’s a product already in a number of popular shoes around the world. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Lundhags Shell Boots: This brand was founded in 1932 by shoemaker Jonas Lundhangs and makes high-quality boots for hiking and trekking. We position ARIAPRENE® in the middle layer of Lunghags’ Shell Boots, between the two leather layers for additional support and stability
Read more: LUNDHAGS SHELL BOOTS
- Hoka One One Tennine Hike GTX: Hoka markets this shoe as part hiking boot, part “hovercraft.” It uses the latest ARIAPRENE® Terra material, made with 25 percent recycled TPE, just under the tongue.
Read more: HOKA ONE ONE TENNINE HIKE GTX
- Danner Women’s Mountain 600 Chelsea Boot: Danner chose to use ARIAPRENE® material for this shoe’s flexible collar, allowing wearers to slip it on and off easily. The shoe is durable enough for everyday use.
Read more: DANNER WOMEN’s MOUNTAIN 600 CHELSEA BOOT
- Five Ten Wall Master: The Wall Master is Five Ten’s premium climbing shoe. It features an ARIAPRENE® synthetic rubber-perforated tongue which maximizes performance and provides a beginner-friendly experience.
- Giro Terraduro Mid: This shoe for mountain biking is designed for the most challenging pedal grinding conditions. It features an ARIAPRENE® foam insert alongside other high-performance materials geared towards durability.
- Nike Lebron XIII: The Nike Lebron is now in its 13th year. The most recent model comes packed with a host of features, including ARIAPRENE® foam for the sock-like one-piece upper, under a layer of breathable mesh.
In summary, sustainable shoes are becoming more popular among consumers. But unbeknownst to many manufacturers, it is also becoming easier to make them. Suppliers, such as ARIAPRENE®, are bringing down the costs of being sustainable while also allowing firms to bring viable products to market. It’s a win-win.
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