Sole Footwear Finds New Use for Millions of Old Wine Corks

Sole Footwear, Amorium, cork, ReCork, eco-friendly sandals, sustainable sandals, eco-friendly flip-flops, sustainable flip-flops, recycled shoes, upcycled shoes, recycled fashion, upcycled fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

If you are in the market for new  footwear, do your part in adding to the material chain of custody by sipping on a bottle of your favorite vintage! In a partnership with ReCork, a North American cork recycling initiative, Canadian footwear manufacturer Sole has used over 40 million corks to produce their superior ergonomic footbeds.  The cork collection includes men’s and women’s sandals, but we are excited to learn that Sole will be adding boots, ballet flats, casual slip-ons and lace-up looks next fall.

Sole Footwear, Amorium, cork, ReCork, eco-friendly sandals, sustainable sandals, eco-friendly flip-flops, sustainable flip-flops, recycled shoes, upcycled shoes, recycled fashion, upcycled fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

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Although cork is renewable, only after 40 years of age is the tree bark suitable use in wine storage. From there it can take 9-12 years more until the thick outer layer cork oak tree bark has regrown and can be stripped again. This kind of wait time puts the material in high demand, and endangers the trees from being over harvested. “A lot of people don’t even realize that cork grows on trees. I like how simple that message is,” says Mike Baker, President of Sole. “By collecting used wine corks, we’re taking what would otherwise be a waste material and giving it new life.”

Sole’s use of cork in their footwear, is also displacing the petroleum-based EVA (ethlyene-vinyl acetate) rubber they have traditionally used. Because cork is similarly lightweight, elastic, and flexible, it is an excellent choice as a replacement.

Although Sole has a big part in the effort to conserve virgin cork, it is the large network of partners involved that makes the program really effective. ReCork is sponsored by Amorim, the world’s largest cork producer located in Portugal. ReCork has added thousands of reclaim centers at restaurants, wine shops, and other venues, but Sole thinks it is most compelling when they have footwear re-sellers join in. “When a retailer can serve as a collection partner and then sell shoes made from the cork that was brought into their stores, it’s very self-fulfilling. And it’s a great story that retailers can bring to their customers.”

+ Sole Footwear

+ReCork

[Via WWD]

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3 Responses to “Sole Footwear Finds New Use for Millions of Old Wine Corks”

  1. CorkForest says:

    Your site is fantastic and we applaud your efforts to educate the public about sustainable fashion choices. But it is imperative, that before you post about a “green” or “sustainable” item, you make sure that the item is truly sustainable and green. The collection and transportation of the corks for the Sole products, eliminates any environmental benefit of removing those corks from our landfills. Cork is a natural product and in a landfill will release it’s carbon over 100 years. By transporting corks across the US to Vancouver BC, then to China and back, more CO2 has been created than the corks sequester and therefore, is an environmental negative and those products should not be considered “green”.

  2. leabogdan (@leadesigns) says:

    Hi there CorkForest. We love passionate readers, and appreciate your feedback. As you pointed out, cork is a renewable natural material, and there is transport involved in any kind of materials reclaiming/reusing program.
    There is a grey area where debate can happen over what is and what is not green. I think it is great to have discussion over it and love to hear differing opinions!! I would not however say that this particular program between ReCork and Sole is definably not green. To recap a few notes that we propose as the sustainable benefits of the ReCork and Sole partnership: (1) cork is not a rapidly renewable material, taking over a decade between harvests in a crop of endangered European cork trees, (2) displacement of the use of petroleum based materials for shoe soles (3) cyclical program where reclaim partners are also retailers. ReCork offers even more information on their sustainablity which you can find here http://recork.org/sustainability/

  3. corkforest says:

    Dear Lea,
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. As Executive Director of the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, the only NGO in North America, whose sole mission is to preserve and protect the Mediterranean cork forests, I fully understand the the issue of cork renewal. Though the trees take 9 years to grow back the bark that has been harvested, there are enough cork trees in the 7 million acres of forests to supply all the needs of the wine and fashion industries, for over 100 years. Though is is counter-intuitive to way the way we think about forestry, the more we use the cork forests, the healthier they will be.

    But, the basic premise remains, if you ship used wine corks 10’s of thousands of miles to make them into shoes or whatever, you fundamentally negate any environmental benefit of removing them from landfills. This can be confirmed by asking any environmental scientist. We will agree that the Sole/ReCork program is helping to educated the public about the need to save the cork forests, but it must be pointed out that Sole operates the ReCork program as a for-profit division of their company.

    You can learn more about our cork forest conservation efforts at:www.corkforest.org Thank you again for your willingness to have this dialogue.

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