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Why sugar cane sneakers are a sweet step towards more sustainable fashion

If you’re still wearing soles made out of environmentally-unfriendly plastic, you need to rethink your wardrobe.

The arrival of a new natural material and renewable resource could well put an end to the use of plastic in our shoes. As fashion brands seek to reinvent themselves to reduce their impact on the planet, they are gradually turning to sugar cane, which is shaping up to be a major ally for one of the world’s most polluting industries.

[Hero Image Credit: Allbirds via Facebook]

It has taken decades, even centuries, for sugar cane to move beyond the brown and white sugars typically used to make desserts, cakes and other everyday treats. Now, the plant, grown all around the world (Brazil, India, China, and to a lesser extent Australia) could also become a credible, sustainable alternative to certain polluting materials, like plastic, used in the fashion industry.

sugar cane sneakers Allbirds
Image Credit: Allbirds via Facebook

Sugar cane sneakers

The giants of the sector are trying to innovate and reinvent to reduce their environmental footprints, looking to, among other things, the use of sustainable materials. To this end, several brands have turned to sugar cane — not to mention grapes or apples — as an alternative to materials that are more polluting, or less respectful of the environment and animal welfare, such as leather or the PVC used to make the outsoles of some shoes.

Sugar cane has quickly become an essential natural material for making the soles of sneakers — footwear that has been highly coveted worldwide for several years. One of the pioneering brands in the field is none other than Allbirds, which has made it its mission to be (at the very least) carbon-neutral, and to offer only eco-responsible sneakers made from natural materials, all without compromising on quality or performance. And it’s a challenge that the brand seems to have met with flying colors, with Time Magazine recently describing Allbirds shoes as “the world’s most comfortable.”

Allbirds is one of the labels that has made sugar cane a key material in the design of its sneakers, notably used to craft its SweetFoam sole. This technology also formed the basis of the Allbirds and adidas “FutureCraft.FootPrint,” the first low-carbon sneaker resulting from the two brands’ collaboration.

sugar cane sneakers
Image Credit: Allbirds via Facebook

A promising future

But the San Francisco-based brand isn’t the only one to have set its sights on this natural, low-carbon component. Several brands are now incorporating sugar cane into their shoe design, particularly for the soles, helping to reduce the environmental impact of each pair produced. The Ubac brand, for example, which sells sneakers made with recycled wool, also uses sugar cane for its outsoles. This biosourced material has “excellent technical properties such as lightness, resistance and cushioning,” according to the brand.

This point of view appears to be shared by the brands Veja, Timberland and UGG, which have all launched models partially made from sugar cane. A craze that shows how much the environmental qualities of the plant could help drive change in the industry. In any case, its future seems to be all mapped out…

sugar cane sneakers
Image Credit: Allbirds via Facebook

Sugar cane clothes?

Already fast becoming a must in the world of sneakers, sugar cane could quickly take over the textile industry too. The Picture brand recently presented the first ski jacket with primary technology based on biosourced fibers, made from sugarcane waste. An innovation that proves that sugar cane can also be used in the design of clothing.

It remains to be seen if, or to what extent, the textile industry is ready to embrace this natural component which could, in the long run, help drive plastic out of our closets.

This article is published via AFP Relaxnews.

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