Sustainability has become an increasingly important conversation within the footwear and fashion industries, as environmentalists continue to sound the alarm about the human impact on the planet.
For rainboot makers, the need for action is particular important because the materials they use have a particularly long shelf life: According to estimates from the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Fla., a rubber shoe heel takes 50 to 80 years to decompose in nature, and items made from plastic, such as drink bottles, can take as many 450 years to degrade.
A number of brands are taking serious steps to minimize their environmental impact in a variety of ways, from reducing waste and incorporating new materials to creating recycling programs so that boots never find their way into landfills.
Here, executives from five boot labels share their sustainable efforts.
CEO of Lemon Jelly
“As an injection company, we realized our electrical energy footprint was five times that of a normal shoe company, so one important measure we took was to install more than 900 solar panels on our rooftop, followed by a contract with an electric energy company guaranteeing that we are purchasing electricity only from renewable sources. We also realized that there is a considerable amount of waste [in our production]. So we decided to launch our Wasteless Act range: shoes made from our production scraps, which allowed us to make a shoe with incredibly low CO2 emissions. Our commitment is to reach 0% waste in our factories by 2022.”
Creative director, Hunter Boots
“Sourcing sustainable materials is a priority for Hunter across our product offer. The boots produced in collaboration with Stella McCartney, available from September, have been an important step forward. They are crafted from a natural rubber procured from certified sustainable forests and Yulex, a plant-based neoprene that generates 80% less climate-altering carbon dioxide. End-of-product life cycle is also incredibly important. This summer, Hunter will introduce an in-store and online recycling service. In partnership with First Mile, customers in the U.K. can drop off their old Hunter boots at our Regent Street flagship.”
President of Bogs Footwear
“Sustainability is a priority throughout our supply chain. Our rubber factories have long minimized waste by using as much as 40% postindustrial recycled material. Plus we use water-based adhesives and are transitioning to Bloom plant-based foam, from EVA. Also, this fall, select styles are launching with Yulex, a plant-based natural rubber that is FSC-certified and sustainably sourced. And our boxes are all transitioning to a ‘ship in own container’ construction that helps minimize packaging.”
“We are in the process of updating our code of conduct to meet the new standards [from the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development]. Keeping up to date on sustainable developments within materials and manufacturing is a part of our business strategy. We cooperate with high-quality suppliers for fabrics, trims and fabrication. We make our rubber boots out of single-estate 100% natural rubber from sustainable harvests. It is mixed with our own secret recipe, making the fundamental composition 80% natural rubber and 20% secret recipe. Entirely PVC-free, our boots contain no animal byproducts.”
VP of manufacturing at Kamik
“We started addressing sustainability 25 years ago — before the word even existed. Back then, we were only able to reuse 25% of recycled material without affecting performance, so we worked to find a better solution. As a result, we developed a unique compound for our rainboots, allowing us to recycle 100% of our material wastes without sacrificing any of the quality. Kamik also implemented greener manufacturing initiatives including a low-consumption process in our plants, thanks to hydroelectricity and water reuse. And [our products are] made in North America, enabling us to reduce freight emissions.”
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