You’ve probably seen it before – most likely even more so in recent years. A bright green, slimy layer of funk floating on lakes, rivers, and ponds known as algae bloom. It’s nasty. And not in the good way. Besides destroying coastal views and summer swim missions, an algae bloom is also toxic to marine life and humans, and is now considered to be a global environmental crisis. Like we did with the recycling of plastic bottles, we wanted to use algae in our shoes.
Here’s the good news though. Engineers have figured out that they can harvest algae biomass from freshwater lakes and rivers, and make a lightweight, flexible, durable foam from it – ideal for footwear. Not only does Algae Foam clear harmful algae from polluted waterways, but each pair re-circulates 240 bottles of filtered water back into natural habitats and prevents the equivalent of 13 balloons full of CO2 from being released into the Earth’s atmosphere. That's why we use algae for our recycled shoes.
Outsoles have been one of the more challenging problems to solve in the quest for designing sustainable shoes. There simply haven’t been any alternative options to those dependent on fossil fuels. So when we first learned of this emerging technology, we were obviously intrigued. But first – it had to pass the performance test. No matter how “green” something is, if it doesn’t feel, perform, or look good, it’s not an option.
We had some protos made up and gave them a real-life test. We wore them day and night. To work. To concerts. To tradeshows (perhaps the truest test – the miles and hours logged on your feet at a tradeshow is no joke). On road trips. Chasing the kids. Walking the dog. Riding bikes. Cobble stone streets. Dirt roads. Wooden docks. You name it, we walked it.
They passed the test with flying colors - even we were surprised at how well they held up! We added rubber panels at the contact points for added durability, and can now proudly offer you an alternative outsole/insole option that is more sustainable and more comfortable.
Algae…who woulda thunk it.
First, we need to review the definition of recycling in order to better understand what upcycling and downcycling are.