Most people consider footwear a necessity and yet probably don’t realize the impact that shoe manufacturing has on the environment. Thankfully there are people and companies who are dedicated to sustainable manufacturing practices and finding innovative ways to design footwear that is eco-friendly, comfortable and stylish. SAOLA Shoes is one of those companies.
Very young, Guillaume, the founder of SAOLA, was already worried about the turn that our world was taking and especially of its quadrupled inhabitants. Not surprisingly, 40 years later, 60% of wild animals had disappeared. Father of two little girls and after 15 years in the outdoor industry, he decided to act for a better future. SAOLA was born: an eco-responsible brand and above all very committed.
SAOLA cannot stop the process but can nevertheless help to slow it down. We at SAOLA believe that with collective and concrete actions we can make a difference. It is therefore for this reason that we have decided to donate 1% of our turnover to associations that wish to #MAKEANIMPACT. It is with the accumulation of individual actions that we can tip the scales.
“Because the reality is, most days we need to wear shoes. And we really LIKE to wear shoes that look cool and feel good. The problem is the way companies have been making those stylish, comfortable shoes over the last several decades has been wreaking havoc on our planet — the footwear industry is one of the world’s greatest polluters. So we’re on a mission to change that, by designing casual kicks that look good, feel great, and are made with as many eco-friendly materials as possible. Will they solve all the world’s problems? Nope. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction,” says Guillaume, founder of Saola (and Maro, Xavier, Aristide and our band of helpers).
TWO MAIN MISSIONS
- ECO-DESIGN — Each year, over 25 billion pairs of shoes are made, making footwear a major contributor to the textile industry’s status of world’s second largest polluter. Because 70% of the carbon footprint of a pair of shoes comes from the materials and production, that is where we are first focusing our efforts, by utilizing recycled and bio-based materials and optimizing the production process.
- WILDLIFE PRESERVATION — Over the last 40 years, the planet has lost over half its wildlife, and only a very small amount of philanthropic dollars is dedicated to its conservation. But there are a lot of hard-working organizations out there working tirelessly to change that and we are committed to supporting them. One percent of SAOLA sales are donated to wildlife conservation projects, so that in another 40 years, our planet’s animals aren’t a thing of the past. Since its creation, SAOLA has been committed to the preservation of wildlife.
The SAOLA is one of the rarest animals found on our planet. Discovered only recently in 1992, the “Asian unicorn” lives in the mountains between Vietnam and Laos. With only 300 or so animals left, the SAOLA is listed among many plants and animals on the critically endangered species list, those that have a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
The story of the enigmatic SAOLA struck us as both an inspirational story of hope and as a grave reminder of the fragile state of our eco-system. It is why we declared the bi-horned wonder our mascot and why we are dedicated to helping conservation efforts.
1% FOR THE PLANET
Disheartened? So are we. But we are also optimistic, because there are incredible people in the world who put all of their energy, experience, and skills into preserving wildlife and biodiversity.
1% of SAOLA shoe sales goes towards supporting these people and their projects so that our children, grandchildren, and future generations can enjoy wildlife and animals like the SAOLA as much as we have.
Your purchase of SAOLA shoes supports our friend, Patrick Kilonzo, and his organization, MWALUA WILDLIFE TRUST. Patrick, a native of Kenya, has watched many animals perish over recent years due to severe droughts in the region. Climate change will only continue to make this area of Africa susceptible to droughts, affecting the wildlife and eco-systems of the region.
In response, Patrick began MWALUA WILDLIFE TRUST, a grassroots organization that relies on volunteer efforts to supply sustainable water systems to wildlife communities, while also promoting human-wildlife coexistence. Volunteers work with communities to raise awareness about conservation, to promote ecological restoration, and to increase ethical economic opportunities to protect Kenya’s nature and biodiversity. Animals affected by Patrick’s organization include elephants, buffalo, zebras, impala, and more — all of whom rely on the area’s resources for their survival. Patrick is working to create long-term solutions that will prepare the surrounding parks and eco-systems in times of need. 1% of the proceeds from every pair of SAOLA shoes sold will support Patrick and his team.
RECYCLED SHOES FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Each year, 25 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured world-wide. Sadly, almost none of these are made sustainably, making the textile industry the world’s second largest polluter behind oil and gas. This stark reality was one of the major reasons we started SAOLA Shoes and what keeps us motivated to turn this ship around.
Because we know that 60–70% of the environmental footprint of a pair of shoes is a result of the product’s materials, we’ve made eco-construction the central pillar of SAOLA’s shoe development. Read below to learn more about each of the sustainable materials we’ve selected to make our sustainable shoes.
RECYCLED PLASTIC BOTTLES
The uppers of SAOLA shoes are made with recycled plastic bottles, otherwise known as PET. You know it as the plastic used to make food packaging and plastic water bottles (cringe). When recycled, PET goes through a cleaning, grinding, and melting process that results in thread, giving second life to plastic and reducing trash in our landfills. And what happens to this thread you might ask? Well, it’s then woven into various fabrics to create the comfy and stylish uppers for SAOLA shoes. The technology has come so far that we are now able to mimic animal-based materials like leather and suede using recycled plastic, too. If we didn’t tell you they were recycled shoes, you’d never know it.
Depending on the style, each pair of SAOLA shoes contains between 3 and 7 recycled PET bottles. And one more thing. Our PET supplier is accredited by the “Recycled Global Standard” certification, which ensures the traceability of the production line of these materials. That’s the way we can produce recycled plastic shoes.
ALGAE FOAM IN THE OUTSOLES
SAOLA insoles and many of the shoes’ outsoles are made with recycled Algae Foam.
Rising temperatures and excess chemicals in our lakes and rivers contribute to the growth of algae — harming the lives of plants, animals, and humans. We’ve partnered with the team at Bloom Foam to harvest harmful algae and create eco-friendly, bio-sourced materials for the insoles and outsoles of our shoes. Bloom Foam removes harmful algae from the water and puts it through a process that dries, crushes and converts it into powder. This powder is then mixed with EVA (a synthetic material) to become Algae Foam, used for sole construction. Using Algae Foam allows us to use 15–20% less synthetic materials in our soles, cleans lakes of harmful algae, and prevents the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Now that’s what we call a win for mother nature, and a win for your feet.
ORGANIC COTTON FOR THE LACES
We use organic cotton for our laces. Did you know that cotton cultivation represents only 2.4% of the agricultural area, but that it uses nearly one quarter of the pesticides sold in the world? Gah!
That’s why we use organic cotton for our recycled shoes. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are replaced by natural compost, and this cotton requires half as much water as traditional cotton. The end-result is cotton that is softer, more flexible, and way kinder to the planet.
NATURAL CORK IN THE INSOLES
The advantage of cork is that if you want to wear your shoes barefoot, cork will be very comfortable. You will feel like you are walking on a cloud.
The bark is harvested without impacting the trees that continue to grow. They thus generate a new bark which will be taken again a few years later.