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OrthoLite Milestone: Inner Colors

Executives at OrthoLite Inc. are making some green tracks.

“It’s a state of mind that’s been ingrained into our research and development,” said CEO Glenn Barrett. “For everything we develop, we try to incorporate as much sustainability as we can.”

The company is on pace to deliver 18 million pairs of its EcoOrthoLite insoles this year, compared with 12.5 million in 2011. Targeting 30 million to 35 million pairs in 2013, Barrett projects that sustainable products will eventually make up half of OrthoLite products sold. “It’s more than just creating new compounds — it’s also about trying to incorporate as many eco points as we can into our existing range,” he said.

In addition to using recycled rubber in all insoles, the company has developed a proprietary eco polymer made from castor beans. The bio­degradable formula is used in 12 percent of OrthoLite’s products, and Barrett is looking to boost that to 20 percent in 2013. The goal is to incorporate it into all OrthoLite insoles in place of polyurethane.

Heavy demand from brand partners is what spurred OrthoLite to create more sustainable components. “Brands just want to be more responsible,” explained Barrett, noting that Nike, Adidas, Wolverine, New Balance and Clarks are among the biggest users of the eco products.

Bob Michalski, head of footwear development at Puma USA in Boston, said adding OrthoLite’s eco series was a natural fit. “It aligns with our product value and sustainability goals as we’re reducing Puma’s carbon footprint — EcoOrthoLite uses less petroleum,” he said.

While demand for OrthoLite’s sustainable insoles grows, Barrett recalls the initial difficulties the company had in making those products economically feasible.

He noted that while eco products had cost OrthoLite 10 percent more to make initially, it has lowered that to 5 percent by bringing production and development in-house through its own eco-friendly factory in China. “It was hard to satisfy market demand to be sustainable with a reasonable price point,” the CEO said. “We did that, and even though we had a slow start, we’re now on pace to grow.”

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