Get ready: Your 2020 sneakers might be made of seaweed

Made from the world’s fastest-regrowing material, AlgiKnit’s new biodegradable shoes hit all the right spots for green consumers.

Green fashion is the new black, and yet another rising startup is set to prove it to the world. These sleek biodegradable shoes called AlgiKicks are made from a certain type of seaweed – kelp – and they are designed to contribute to Earth’s well-being even after thrown out.

AlgiKnit, an NYC biomaterials company, found a way to turn algae into the fiber, creating a clean, durable, biodegradable material as an answer to the negative environmental impact of conventional industry. Here is what happens when science meets fashion.

Source: AlgiKnit

300 mln shoes are dumped every year – what if they benefited Earth instead?

Footwear alone accounts for about one-fifth of the CO2 emissions produced by the fashion industry, and in recent decades worldwide shoe consumption has been increasing dramatically.

Research finds that material production often has the highest impact on the environment in a shoe life cycle – up to 80% of the total carbon footprint. However, disposing of worn-out shoes presents an equally challenging problem. While some brands like Nike have sneaker recycling programs, most of the discarded footwear end up in landfills – that is an estimated 300 million pairs every year.

Even though the eco-conscious movement is rapidly growing, it is still going to take a long time to get everybody on board. That is why AlgiKnit has taken a different approach.

“If clothing is going to continue to be disposable, why not make it disposable in a way that makes sense – that actually benefits the earth?”

co-founder Aleksandra Gosiewski says.

With this in mind, their sustainable sneakers are envisioned to “feed” the growing material for the next pair of shoes – but no worries, they will not start decomposing while being worn.

Kelp yarn: rapidly renewable and biodegradable

AlgiKnit’s innovative biofiber aims to address all the biggest challenges in minimizing a shoe’s footprint throughout its entire life cycle. Being produced from – in their own words – “the most renewable organisms on earth” the kelp yarn might just be among the most sustainable materials available today.

Toxic coloring is replaced with natural dyes, which further reduces the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. And when the time comes, the shoes can be recycled with other biowaste and will be easily broken down by microorganisms without any harmful consequences to the environment.

Moreover, it looks like farming algae can actually have a beneficial effect on ocean ecosystems. Unlike most traditional raw material used in the shoe industry, the seaweed used in AlgiKnit’s manufacturing can be easily harvested and quickly regrown without upsetting the natural balance. Additionally, kelp traps excess carbon, so removing it improves coastal water quality and helps sustain a healthy marine habitat.

Materials of the future: recycled ocean plastics and corn waste

AlgiKnit is not the only company to have caught up on the need to make a change in the shoe industry. Shoemakers from top brands to up-and-coming startups have been scouting for a way to reverse the dangerous trend.

Just so, Adidas turned to upcycling plastic waste fished out from oceans, while Nike found a way to use waste leather that would otherwise be dumped to landfills. Other unconventional sustainable materials used by startups include eucalyptus tree pulp, corn waste and wine corks to name but a few.

Leave a Comment