With an ever-increasing need for transparency and accountability, and a focus on strategies to reduce our impact on the planet, beginning of 2022 sees the launch of ‘aspect climate projects’, the unisex vegan footwear brand which has been described as “the gold standard in sustainable shoe design”.
Each of the 54 parts that make up their first style ‘Suber’ have been considered for their impact on the climate and biodiversity, making them the most responsibly designed shoes on the market. The materials used are plant-based and have been chosen for their incredible natural properties as well as their ability to be easily replenished. The brand has focused on sourcing sustainable materials that enhance the footwear aesthetics, creating shoes that are better for the Earth, and better for your feet.
The uppers are Pinatex, an innovative hard-wearing alternative to leather that is made using discarded pineapple leaves, a by-product from the food industry. Waste coconut husk fibres combined with cork are used for internal components such as reinforcements and the footbed. These materials have durability, breathability and elasticity that provide long-lasting support and comfort, and through their upcycling, the brand helps to prevent the release of carbon through the normal disposal or burning. Using these byproducts also means there is no need for any extra land, water or fertiliser during the growth phase and their purchase gives added income to farming communities, helping to sustain plant-based, decarbonising economies.
There is also a focus on materials harvested from trees, such as cork, coconut, and the natural rubber used on the soles, as they stay in the ground and continue to sequester high amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. As well as designing using carbon-sequestering plants, the brand will be offsetting one-tonne of carbon for each pair of the ‘Suber’ style sold, this goes beyond net-zero and has a net positive impact on the climate. UK-based founder Alex Ward, a self-confessed shoe geek, has worked for over 15 years in the footwear industry. He grew up with an interest in environmental issues thanks to his parents who managed a nature reserve in Essex.
Ward saw an opportunity to combine his love of nature and shoes by putting the planet at the heart of the design process. While other brands have attempted to replace elements of their shoes with more sustainable alternatives, Ward looked at the problem holistically, developing a design principle that considered every aspect of the shoe for its performance and impact on planetary well-being. This meant looking both inside and outside the shoe, considering all hidden components. He embraced the new exciting technical innovations that were challenging the current environmentally damaging practices and dug deep into complex supply-chains and trialled pioneering new materials. He looked for nature-based solutions, sourcing plant-based alternatives which delivered on sustainability while also being flexible and hard-wearing enough to be used in shoes.
The shoes have been independently reviewed for their impact on the climate by conservation consultancy Biodiversify. Founder Dr Mike Burgass commended aspect climate projects as a “gold standard example of how shoe design can truly consider environmental impact.” The full report is available to read at www.aspectclimateprojects.com. Ward wants to use his understanding of footwear design to challenge the way shoes are manufactured and to raise awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment. He comments: “aspect climate projects wasn’t created to sell more shoes, it was created to sell better shoes – ones that balance environmental impact with performance.
The vegan unisex shoes are available for pre-order at www.aspectclimateprojects.com and are available worldwide.
Some facts on Shoes
• Each year 24 billion pairs of shoes are produced, the vast majority containing plastics that don’t biodegrade.
• Plastic soles are the 7th biggest contributor to microplastic pollution
• Leather is used extensively too, the production of which (meat and leather) is catastrophic in terms of deforestation, biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional leather tanning methods are water-intensive and use harmful chemicals
• Although efforts have been made to address some of these issues, there has been a move towards replacing leather with plastic and labelling shoes ‘sustainable’ even if the majority was still made of synthetics
• Materials by part of shoe:
• Sole : Natural rubber 86%
• Upper : Pinatex 72% pineapple leaf fibre, 18% polylactic acid, 5% bio-polyurethane, 5% polyurethane
• Lining : 20% corn polymer, 40% recycled polyester, 10% pigmented polyurethane, 30% adhesive fibres
• Footbed : Coconut husk fibres / cork
• Reinforcements : Coconut husk fibres
• Lasting board : Coconut husk fibres
• Padding : Natural latex
• Laces : Organic cotton