This month United By Blue, the American sustainable gear manufacturer, paired up with SOLE, the Canadian shoe manufacturer to launch what they claim is the most eco-friendly shoe ever.
It’s a bold claim. Is it an equally bold shoe?
The Jasper Wool Eco Chukka from SOLE x United By Blue is made entirely from eco-friendly materials. What you get is not only an eco-friendly shoe, but one that furthers innovation in sustainable footwear.
Here’s what’s inside.
Cork – the midsole is made from recycled cork. Cork is already a sustainable material to begin with and recycling it helps minimize waste. This new technology was a collaborative effort between SOLE and ReCORK, creating North America’s largest cork recycling program.
BisonShield – the insulation is made from United By Blue’s award winning material comprised of 50% natural bison hair and 50% recycled polyester. Using bison hair disqualifies the shoe from being vegan, but it’s important to note that it’s a biproduct of the bison ranching industry. This means the hair that United by Blue is using was previously being thrown away and is now being used. No bison are killed for the hair.
Rice Rubber – the outsole is made from natural rubber with added rice husks for improved durability of the rubber. Processing natural rubber requires 7 times less energy than petroleum-based alternatives.
Algae – the footbed is made from bloom algae foam with a cork topsheet. BLOOM technology removes algae from harmful algal blooms in our waterways and uses it to make a foam as good as it’s petroleum-based alternative, and with 40% less environmental impact.
Merino Wool – the shoe’s outer layer is merino wool, which surrounds the BisonShield insulation. While not vegan, this merino wool is ethically sourced and fully traceable.
In short, the shoe gets a pass for being eco-friendly.
Style X Function
At Eco-Stylist we can’t back anything without also questioning its style and function. After all, fashion must have good design in order for people to want to wear it. It also needs to be durable to truly be sustainable.
As for style, images of the shoes in action reveal that they look great for both men and women’s casual attire. The shoes bear a minimalist and modern aesthetic.
The first run features 3 neutral colors: dark grey, beige, and black. This selection is perfect for matching a wide variety of outfits.
When it comes to durability the shoe is currently in a Kickstarter campaign so no extensive testing over long durations has been done. However, the creators say that of the hundreds of pairs given to influencers and testers, they are holding up and performing very well.
We’ll give the shoes a pass for eco-friendliness, style, and function.
Now back to the pivotal question: are these really the world’s most eco-friendly shoe? To evaluate this claim, let’s look at a few of the contenders available on the market.
SHAO | Ecoalf
The SHAO by Ecoalf is made from two materials: recycled plastic bottles for the upper and algae for the outer sole. Both of these materials are collected and cleaned from oceans and waterways, positively impacting those environments.
SDU | Veja
The SDU from Veja is a vegan sneaker made with an upper from 3 recycled plastic bottles, recycled polyester lining, 25% wild Amazonian rubber soles, and TPU in place of leather. Don’t worry, harvesting wild rubber from the Amazon is sustainable and protects those forests from deforestation.
Tree Runner | Allbirds
The Tree Runner by Allbirds has an upper made from eucalyptus trees, recycled polyester laces, eyelets made from bio-based TPU, and recycled cardboard packaging. Tencel fabric derived from Eucalyptus trees uses 95% less water than cotton and cuts the carbon footprint in half. Eucalyptus tree don’t need to be cut down to get the pulp and they grow back quickly.
Cannon | Saola
The Cannon by Saola has uppers made from recycled mesh and recycled PET (plastic bottles), insoles made from cork and algae Bloom foam, and outsoles made from Bloom foam. Saola takes sustainable manufacturing seriously and is a member of 1% For The Planet.
Ultimately these are all great options from an environmentally conscious perspective. Choosing a winner would require a lot more data. Data that we don’t yet have.
Is this new shoe from SOLE x UBB the most sustainable shoe in the world? Maybe, or maybe not.
It’s certainly making a very strong case for that title based on the materials used. To make an accurate comparison we would need to compare the materials of each shoe, as well as the respective durability.
If we chose based on materials alone, we’d venture to say Saola and Ecoalf are giving SOLE x UBB a run for their money. But if it’s money you’re looking to spend, you really can’t go wrong with any of those 3 options.
Want a Pair?
If you’re looking to support the Jasper Wool Eco Chukka from SOLE x United By Blue you probably don’t want to wait. The Kickstarter campaign is live and offering significant discounts to early backers.
The campaign officially ends April 4, 2019 but some of the early discount deals are starting to sell out. The original fundraising goal of $30,000 has been surpassed meaning the shoes will be getting made and shipped.
Once the campaign gets 2500 backers, a second shoe called the Jasper Wool Eco Slip-on will become available.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think the most eco-friendly shoe in the world is?
Garik Himebaugh is the founder of Eco-Stylist, a stylishly curated collection of eco-conscious menswear. He provides personal style consultations including custom look book creation, wardrobe renovation, and special event styling, both remotely and locally from Iowa City, Iowa.