Each year, 25 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured world-wide. Sadly, almost none of these are made sustainably, making the textile industry the world’s second largest polluter behind oil and gas. This stark reality was one of the major reasons we started SAOLA Shoes and what keeps us motivated to turn this ship around.
Because we know that sixty to seventy percent of the environmental footprint of a pair of shoes is a result of the product’s materials, we’ve made eco-construction the central pillar of SAOLA’s shoe development. Read below to learn more about each of the sustainable materials we’ve selected to make our sustainable shoes.
The uppers of SAOLA shoes are made with recycled plastic bottles, otherwise known as PET.
PET is polyethylene terephthalate. Don’t worry – we can’t pronounce it either. You know it as the plastic used to make food packaging and plastic water bottles (cringe). When recycled, PET goes through a cleaning, grinding, and melting process that results in thread, giving second life to plastic and reducing trash in our landfills. And what happens to this thread you might ask? Well, it’s then woven into various fabrics to create the comfy and stylish uppers for SAOLA shoes. The technology has come so far that we are now able to mimic animal-based materials like leather and suede using recycled plastic, too. If we didn’t tell you they were recycled shoes, you’d never know it.
“When I started SAOLA, I was adamant that I wanted to make our shoes as eco-friendly as possible, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice comfort or style to do so. After all, that was one of the catalysts to me starting SAOLA – I wanted to buy eco-friendly products that were as cool-looking and comfortable as the ones I saw at shops and I couldn’t find any. The uppers are the most noticeable part of a shoe that give it its overall style, and we now have way more options in recycled materials to choose from. It’s cool to be a part of a movement that is changing the perception of what eco-friendly style means.” – Guillaume Linossier
Depending on the style, each pair of SAOLA shoes contains between four and five recycled PET bottles. And one more thing. Our PET supplier is accredited by the "Recycled Global Standard" certification, which ensures the traceability of the production line of these materials. That's the way we can produce recycled plastic shoes.
SAOLA insoles and many of the shoes’ outsoles are made with recycled Algae Foam.
Rising temperatures and excess chemicals in our lakes and rivers contribute to the growth of algae - harming the lives of plants, animals, and humans. We’ve partnered with the team at Bloom Foam to harvest harmful algae and create eco-friendly, bio-sourced materials for the insoles and outsoles of our shoes. Bloom Foam removes harmful algae from the water and puts it through a process that dries, crushes and converts it into powder. This powder is then mixed with EVA (a synthetic material) to become Algae Foam, used for sole construction. Using Algae Foam allows us to use fifteen to twenty percent less synthetic materials in our soles, cleans lakes of harmful algae, and prevents the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Now that’s what we call a win for mother nature, and a win for your feet.
Some SAOLA Shoes, like the Semnoz and the Baikal, used partially recycled EVA outsoles rather than algae-foam. EVA is a soft and springy foam that is often used in athletic shoes thanks to its lightweight cushion and relative durability. In recent years, in the interest of trying to create less waste and recycle more, manufactures have started recycling EVA from products at their end of life and mixing that recycled foam in with new EVA. The end result is comfortable, shock-absorbing support for your feet that uses less synthetic materials than traditional shoes.
We use organic cotton for our laces.
Did you know that cotton cultivation represents only 2.4% of the agricultural area, but that it uses nearly one quarter of the pesticides sold in the world? Gah! That's why we use organic cotton for our recycled shoes. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are replaced by natural compost, and this cotton requires half as much water as traditional cotton. The end-result is cotton that is softer, more flexible, and way kinder to the planet.
The top layer of our insoles is made with cork. Cork is a natural and highly renewable material harvested from the bark of cork trees. This process causes no harm to the trees. In fact, harvesting the bark can extend the trees lifespan to over 200 years. Cork also creates a healthy walking environment for your feet, as they mold to the shape of your foot, reduce joint stress, and are odor resistant.
We are outdoor lovers, we are parents of future generations, and we are dedicated to making a difference. We are challenging the norms, asking the tough questions, and continually looking for better solutions. It’s not easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it, right?
Thank you for being a part of the SAOLAdventure. YOU are awesome, and together we can #MAKEANIMPACT.