Landfills around the world are piling up and becoming a bigger challenge for a healthy environment. Everyone, including the design world, is called upon to find new and innovative ways to help manage and improve the global waste situation. With this concern and a focus on outstanding design in mind, the high-end sneaker brand nat-2™ launched a vegan sneakers line.
The sustainable luxury footwear maker nat-2 designed and created a 100 percent vegan sneaker from coffee. “Why coffee?” you might ask.
Less than 10 percent of all coffee industry residues are composted or repurposed. Almost all of the grounds of two billion cups of coffee drunk globally per day land in the trash. In other words, six million tons of organic coffee grounds goes to landfills each year.
Some might say t is organic and therefore no hazard to our environment and our health. Wrong! The coffee trash in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is thirty times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane is a heavy contributor to climate change and, therefore, a growing worry.
If repurposed, however, coffee grounds offer many benefits. The coffee beans, the world’s second-largest traded commodity, contain nitrogen that eliminates foul-smelling sulfur gas from the air. They are great all-natural dye for various fabrics including cotton, rayon, cellophane and linen.
Coffee grounds are also a great component in the production of textiles and shoes. The fast fashion industry produces a lot of waste with finished and discarded products—a fact that is also bothering manufacturers. Thus, they are looking for new, sustainable materials and technologies as greener alternatives to lower the negative impact the industry has on the earth.
The vegan sneakers—and we’ll get to them in a minute—are not the first fashion product produced from natural materials. Apart from coffee, hemp, pineapple leaves, banana trunks and sugar cane bark are all put to good use for either clothing and shoes or are repurposed in some other way.
Famous fashion labels embrace the use of these natural materials in their haute couture. Hugo Boss makes footwear from Piñatex® (pineapple plant fiber) and Salvatore Ferragamo offers clothes using orange peel material. American Eagle came out with coffee jeans, and Timberland, Northface and Rumi X are jumping on the bandwagon too. Stella McCartney’s designers integrated a leather alternative called Mylo, made from mushrooms, into their creations.
So, getting back to those luxury vegan sneakers. It is estimated that 20 billion shoes are annually produced. A good part of them is made with traditional petroleum-based synthetic soles and leather which is taxing to the environment due to the increased cattle (beef) elevation and toxic tannery as a byproduct.
Sebastian Thiel, founder of nat-2 and sixth-generation shoemaker in Germany, constantly pushes the boundaries of design innovations and great looks. He came up with ideas for alternative materials to leather in the shoe production to further sustainable design with a trendy appearance.
Having previously successfully experimented with tree fungus, Sebastian ventured into the exploration of coffee as a substitute and designed this exceptional new product.
The 100 percent vegan sneakers for men and women are produced from sustainable recycled coffee, coffee beans and coffee plants, that covers up to 50 percent of the shoe’s surface depending on the style. The chocolate-colored, breathable, patented material that is smooth with a bit of texture and has a hint of coffee scent is applied as a layer on the shoe.
Upon availability the coffee used comes from different sources around the world. It could be Brazilian, Vietnamese, Columbian, Indonesian or Honduran, depending on the bean production in each coffee region.
While the concept and material for the vegan sneakers were developed in Germany, the shoes themselves are handmade in Italy at a family-run, high-tech facility that ensures the best quality. In addition to the recycled coffee grounds, the eco-friendly product consists of recycled PET bottles, cork, glue and real rubber.
The soft, padded, anti-bacterial real cork insoles and the glue that is free from animal ingredients are additional parts that fulfill the 100 percent vegan claim.
Nowadays, customers and coffee lovers don’t have to choose between style, design or the environment. They can have it all. The vegan sneakers, albeit not cheap at around $400 per pair, contribute to the health and comfort of one’s feet and body and help reduce the carbon footprint.
See more innovative designs recently shown in Germany: Red Dot Product Design Awards 2019.
Source: photos are courtesy of nat-2