American fashion brand Everlane has launched sneakers made from leather, recycled rubber and plastic bottles that it claims are completely carbon neutral. The unisex trainers, called Tread by Everlane, feature soles made of a mixture of natural and recycled rubber, while the uppers are made of leather from “the world’s cleanest tannery”. The laces and lining are made from recycled plastic bottles. “We’re starting with a leather trainer that’s the lowest impact of its kind,” said Michael Preysman, Everlane founder and CEO, adding that the shoes are “made with less waste and almost no virgin plastic”.
Everlane previously stated it would never make trainers, claiming they are “a disaster for the planet”. “Of everything we wear, sneakers have one of the heaviest footprints,” the brand said. “They require a ton of energy to produce, are made largely from virgin plastic, and never break down.”
Everlane sourced the leather for the uppers from a tannery in southern Vietnam, ISA TanTec, which it describes as the world’s “cleanest tannery”. It claims to use 42 per cent less electricity and 56 per cent less water than other facilities, and to emit 35 per cent fewer greenhouse gases. Rather than using virgin plastic for the soles, Everlane developed a composite of recycled and natural rubber. “We’ve diverted nearly 18,000 pounds of discarded rubber from landfills,” said Everlane. “That’s enough to make 1.3 million latex gloves.” The laces, lining and internal support are made from recycled plastic, with each pair incorporating 9.5 bottles, according to the brand.
The brand carried out a life-cycle assessment to establish the amount of carbon each pair of its trainers generates, including the impact of raising the cattle the leather comes from. It calculated the figure at 51.5kg CO2e or carbon dioxide equivalent, which is the standard way of measuring carbon emissions. It then partnered with carbon-offsetting provider NativeEnergy to offset the carbon, for example by investing in projects that improve cattle ranching on American grasslands. “Healthy grasslands pull an enormous amount of carbon from the air, so this type of initiative could one day lead to carbon-negative leather,” the brand said.