product sustainability

Native Shoes is releasing a plant-based sneaker fit for composting

Vancouver- based sustainable shoe brand, Native Shoes, is launching a sneaker made of fully plant-based and biodegradable materials, which can even be composted at the end of its life.

For the design of the new sneaker, dubbed the Plant Shoe, the brand focused on including exclusively natural materials, down to the stitching and glue used to put the individual materials together.

By making the Shoe biodegradable and suitable for composting, Native Shoes aims to fight the increasing problem of shoe waste, citing that nearly 300 million pairs end up in landfill every year.

The design is purposely kept simplistic and embraces a vintage look. The upper material is made up of a mix of organic cotton and Pinatex, which is made of discarded pineapple waste. As an industry first, the material mix uses no polyurethane coating, a process that is usually applied to textiles to make them more durable.

The shoe’s sole further builds on the sustainable credentials of the brand, using pure hevea latex, a derivative of the rubber tree. However, it uses no artificial additions such as fillers or petrochemical catalysts, which are traditionally used in other “natural” rubber soles.

The brand, which originally launched in 2009 with a sustainable ethos and focused on mainly rubber-based shoes, also collaborated with Goop in 2018 and 2019 to provide rubber slides to the lifestyle brand’s annual In Goop Health events.  

Over the past year, labels including Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Everlane have released their own versions of more sustainable sneakers, experimenting with different, more sustainable materials and tapping into circular design principles.

Nike’s Flyleather design, for example, uses 50% recycled natural leather fiber, while Adidas’ Futurecraft Loop sneaker is made up of only one material and therefore is the first to be fully recyclable. Reebok furthermore launched its biodegradable Cotton + Corn shoe in 2018. Everlane launched its Tread shoe this year, using a combination of natural and recycled rubber for its sole.

Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer start-up Allbirds launched its SweetFoam material initiative last year, an environmentally friendly- alternative to the traditionally used acetate compound that is used in shoe soles today.  Marking a collaborative spirit, Allbirds also made its new solution open-source, hoping to encourage competitors to also adopt this material.

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