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OUR MATERIALS BREAKDOWN

Stylish, comfortable and durable, yet no time in landfill. Our 100% biodegradable sneaker range uses only the highest-quality natural materials, which put people and the environment first. 

Our shoes are a plastic-free, no compromise product. Using sustainable materials and natural organic processes which prioritises sustainability above profit. Our footwear is built to last with materials and manufacturing costs many times that of other shoes, but a final low cost via our direct to you model. 

The good news doesn't stop there. Our manufacturing process using natural flexible materials comes with in-built performance enhancements and elevated comfort over plastic-based alternatives. Nature has it all worked out, and we are just partnering-up with the greatest chemist of all time. 

All our footwear is produced with materials in our active carbon cycle. There’s no dredging up of ancient fossil fuels to sling on your feet here, and we are committed to being carbon neutral throughout our supply chain. 

 Rubber tree sap collection biodegradable shoes

OUR BIODEGRADABLE SOLES

The sole is the heart of any sneaker and it’s around this unique foundation that we’ve crafted a plastic-free and uniquely comfortable sole, and insole, from hand-poured natural rubber collected from old forests and certified FCS village producers. Once it has been shredded this sole unit will break down into organic materials, but only after it has served a long and useful life.   

The unique production process uses 100% natural hand-poured rubber which when cured produces an alveolar microstructure of tiny networked air bubbles for ultimate bio mechanical flexibility. This marriage of ancient curing dates back to the Maya production process and allied to a natural modern process creates a sole which will act as an organic extension of your foot. Once these shoes are on your feet you will feel the difference and know you are wearing something unique. 

It takes a single tree 20 days to produce enough sap for one of our sole units, and another 8 days for the insole. Our soles start off as liquid rubber which is solidified in a mould, which is in turn sitting in a bath of 60 degree C water. After being cooled the soles are placed on trays in an oven and cooked to remove the excess water. The cooking metaphor is unmissable and yes effectively we are sous vide  into slow roasting.

 

After the curing process the material is cut and shaped and will be ready in about 10 to 12 days to create a shoe. We make all other shoes look like fast food. And the advantages of this production process don't stop there as this process results in a product which does not suffer from the traditional high and low elasticity temperature related issues of natural rubber crepe.

The rubber trees from which we harvest our hevea milk naturally sequester carbon and this means that for every pair of shoes bought, between our soles and insoles, there are 28 trees sequestering carbon for 24 hours. The trees take 15 years to be ready from seed to harvest and they then can be milked daily for over 25 years with no adverse effect to the tree and its health. That’s 40 years of carbon sequestering before the old tree is removed and another one planted in its place.

It's a good start for our carbon neutral company and underpins our commitment to ensuring our footprint is minimised in an industry that crying out for more environmentally conscious production. 

Natural Lactae Hevea Rubber Production

BUT I THOUGHT RUBBER SOLES WERE COMMON? 

The terms 'rubber' has come to mean many things, and not much of it is natural. At best it has become standard practise to mix wild rubber with synthetic oil based materials to create an impossible to recycle compound. At worst it's just called 'rubber' despite being made of petrochemicals.   

In creating the first commercial plastic, Bakelite, in 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland ushered in a revolution in manufacturing and the first stages of our current addiction to the flexible miracle of plastic; which has now become the go-to ingredient in more than 20 billion pairs of shoes produced annually.

In a nod to the environment some shoe soles have a small percentage of natural rubber in them, but the majority contain more than 90% synthetic plastic. Yes, some brands claim to have wild or natural rubber soles, but unless they are using lactae hevea or crepe rubber it's slightly disingenuous. The unfortunate truth is that in a typical pair of eco shoes only 30% will be rubber and 70% of the sole will be a form of artificial plastic. 

This allows standard plastic-based soles to be produced for around $2 a pair and with a production time of under 2 minutes. Compared to our process this allows for companies to make huge margins on the shoes you buy. An average $60 shoe is purchased from the manufacturer for $10 and half of that cost is labour and overhead meaning only $5 of total materials go into your $60 pair of shoes.

We believe as consumers we should get more in the box rather than spending hard earned cash on sponsorships and quarterly profits. It's time to concentrate on ecologically sound materials and the welfare of the people who are creating your shoes. Let alone the toll cheap materials takes on our environment, which is why all our shoes are made entirely from sustainable, ethically-sourced materials.

 

organic cotton for biodegradable sneakersWHY ORGANIC COTTON?

GOTs canvas carries an up front cost compared to regular cottons you'll find on a pair of brand sneakers for $50 in the store. But fast and cheap fashion passes that cost onto the environment, soil fertility, biodiversity and the water table. 

It’s easy to forget that the skin is the largest organ of your body. So treat it well and be aware of the chemicals present in the material. Our GOTs Organic Cotton looks after the soil, the air and the people crucial to its production, and whilst not perfect its a reasonable starting point for us in a journey to directly producing our own raw materials. Cotton production has an impact on our world at large, as well as within the communities in which it is grown. A lot of the resources used in the production of cotton are not accounted for and we are looking at the true cost of production, taking into account land, water and chemical inputs and the negative outputs of production.

White Sciarada Leather with Red Gum Sole  

WHY LEATHER?

Leather comes with compromises, we accept that, and we will remove it just as soon as we have a natural and biodegradable equivalent. Right now there isn't a leather substitute which is fully biodegradable, and most are a complicated mixture of polymers and organics. In world drowning in plastic we have chosen to use a waste product (leather) from the meat industry instead of coating organic materials in plastic. Not everyone will agree leather is better than plastic and we respect that position.   

Whilst we are eagerly awaiting a polyester free pineapple leather (Pinatex are working on it) or a cork or Mushroom leather to be available which is zero plastic – right now we are not convinced these products pass our particular bar in terms of plastic coatings and environmental biodegradability.

Fundamentally we are committed to using materials which will not be still hanging around in 500 years. And currently most of these natural, organic materials that are heralded as “biodegradable” break down into microplastics, or contain a high organic content encased in a plasticised matrix to allow it to be workable in production.   

The leather of the future could well not ever have seen a living animal, instead it could be from Modern Meadow that grows leather like beer, using yeast which instead of producing alcohol, eats sugar and produces the building blocks of leather. 

Climate collapse is the biggest challenge we face, and added to this the issues around animal husbandry and products are manifold. So whilst we use the best leather out there, tanned in a metal free organic process with no nasty coatings – we aren’t claiming leather has perfect environmental qualities. But at the risk of repetition: it is plastic free. Leather is the original clothing material for our ancestors who reused everything, and created no long term waste, and that’s where we see our use going until we have a better option and part of our profit will be used to support small scale natural alternative material research.

Our leather is tanned in the most sustainable metal free method and contains no added toxic coatings or fixatives. This isn’t just a choice for the environment but also for the people who produce it. Cheap leather costs lives.    

OUR ReSole SERVICE

A major benefit of leather is that we will be offering a resoling service which will keep extending the life of your shoes. We can send you a pair of soles for a low cost that can be attached in any of the shoe repair services available on the high street in most UK towns and cities. We can also supply a glue that allows the shoe to remain plastic free, as most glues used to connect the sole to the upper in a local shoe repair service are PU based. See the site for options.

WHAT ABOUT VEGAN LEATHER?

I can’t tell you the number of alternatives we have researched and walked away from when you see it is organic matter coated in some version of polyester or other plastic.  

Hemp-thread-plastic-free-thread

A WORD ON HEMP

We are working on a hemp product range as well as using it in our stitching across. We love it as a material.

HOW ABOUT FLAX?

All of our shoes contain flax, a wonderful plant which is strong enough to create workable fibre strands without any chemicals.

European flax is the best in the world, a vital, sustainable material with an increasingly diverse list of usage. As consumers demand increased ethics and responsibility we will be using flax more and more.  

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6 thoughts on “OUR MATERIALS BREAKDOWN

  1. avatar Ana Gomes says:

    Hi,

    Great work!
    However how does it comes, that you say you are an entirely biodegradable brand, if you are using metal eyelets?
    Regards
    Ana Gomes

  2. avatar Adam z says:

    Potentially the worst spin I saw on ‘environmentally friendly’ You could literally stick to canvas only if you really cared.

    Instead you’re sticking to cheap leather from the meat industry – probs loss of land, habitats and the burning of healthy forests will kill you sooner than microplastics

  3. avatar Yin says:

    Can we wash the canvas sneaker? By hand or in a washing machines? White shoe, in general, get dirt very easily, it can only be long lasting if it can be clean and maintenance.

  4. avatar SEAN QUINN says:

    Looking forward to seeing the full range of shoes

    Wishing you all the best.

  5. avatar WAES says:

    Hi Polly! Thanks for the feedback. There’s no shortage of leather out there from the meat industry and we’ll be 100% transparent about our sources. But more fundamentally we are using it as it creates no long-term waste, but of course we accept it isn’t without compromises as we go into detail about above.

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