We design our products to last. We believe that it is better to build a solid product that performs long-term than it is to build throw away products that need to be replaced every few months. Normally we like to say our footbeds, for example, will last for one year. Dean Karnazes ran on his SOLE Signature Edition DK's during his Endurance50 in 2006 (50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days). He used 4 pairs of shoes and only 1 pair of footbeds.
This durability is also important because, unfortunately, our products themselves cannot be recycled or bio-degrade (yet). This is due in part to their construction, with several different materials being combined to create the finished product. Another reason is that performance is number one for us and we can not get the same performance out of recycled, recyclable, or degradable materials yet. Also, infrastructure and facilities to recycle these materials do not exist in most communities.
Cork is one of the most sustainable materials available. SOLE has been researching it and working on developing products with it since 2008. We have found that we can replace some petroleum-based foam with cork and not reduce the performance of our footwear. In the Spring of 2010 we launched our Casual Flips, which are our most sustainable sandals yet. Using 35% cork in the footbed and midsole, and a strap made from hemp and recycled polyester, the Casual Flips are the first of many future cork-based products for SOLE.
SOLE has partnered with Amorim to form ReCORK, a natural wine cork recycling initiative. The goal is to recycle natural corks and to educate and inform our audiences about the crucial role cork forests (the montado) play in curbing climate change and the important environment they create. SOLE will be transitioning from sustainable virgin cork to ReCORK recycled cork in 2011, and there are more cork-based products on the way.
These are initiatives we are working on currently- adding more recycled content, adding more natural, sustainable content (cork, bamboo, etc.), and trying to find recyclable and degradable materials that will perform up to our standards. We are also looking at glues and trying to both reduce our use of them and shift towards safer glues. In the process of making our footwear midsoles, the outsoles are now attached without any glue.
No PVC. Never had it, never will. None of our component materials can be found in the California Proposition 65 list of chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. None can be found in the American Apparel and Footwear Association list of restricted chemicals.
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