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Vivobarefoot Wins Accolades for Algae-Based Footwear

Months after notching certified B Corp status, minimalist footwear brand Vivobarefoot took home an award in innovative engineering “for developing the first footwear made from algae.”

Footprint, a sustainability technology firm specializing in materials science engineering, gave Vivobarefoot one of its six 2021 Ocean Hero Awards Wednesday. Other recipients included the fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, plant-based meal delivery service Daily Harvest and acai-centered food-and-beverage brand Sambazon.

“Innovative leadership will create a sustainable future,” Footprint CEO and co-founder Troy Swope said in a statement. “These champions are executing on a vision to eliminate single-use plastics in our environment by providing alternative sustainable plant-based products and cleaning up the existing debris. Consumers can now choose to improve the health of our planet without giving up any of the convenience.”

Asher Clark, co-founder and design director of Vivobarefoot, said the company always looks for new natural and bio-based materials it can use in its footwear. Along this journey, it met Bloom, a performance-focused materials manufacturer that uses algae biomass harvested from freshwater sources to improve the technical performance of EVA foams.

“As we learnt more around the damaging effect modern farming and human pollution is having on our waterways, we set off on a mission with Bloom to help clean these through our footwear,” Clark told Sourcing Journal.

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Vivobarefoot's Ultra III Bloom's upper is 40 percent algae.
Ultra III Bloom Vivobarefoot

Having received a largely positive reaction from consumers, Clark said Vivobarefoot wants to take its algae efforts even further. Though the upper of the brand’s amphibious Ultra III Bloom is 40 percent algae today, “the dream is to have materials like algae making up 100 percent of the shoe,” he said.

According to Clark, all of Vivobarefoot’s footwear uses either recycled, bio-based or natural materials. The brand’s Primus Lite Bio II, for example, is corn-based, while its leather products are sourced from small and independent free-range farms, he said. Recently, the company redesigned its hero range of products, “dramatically reducing the supply chains that support them and the materials in them,” he added.

“The industry focuses on shoes made with sustainable materials as the finish line,” Clark said. “For the sake of human and planetary health this has to change. Our focus is on producing perfect footwear which is regenerative to feet, human movement and planetary health—that’s the real challenge.”

Vivobarefoot achieved certified B Corp status in September after receiving an initial assessment score of 98.8 out of 200 points, well above the required 80. At the time, the brand’s CEO and co-founder Galahad Clark called the accomplishment a “stepping stone” to Vivobarefoot’s wider objective to not only inflict less harm but also operate in a way that actively promotes the wellbeing of both people and planet.

The certification followed the July launch of ReVivo, a program that revives, reconditions and resells worn and returned footwear from the brand. Customers who send back their old kicks can choose between a 20 percent Vivobarefoot discount or a 10 pound (roughly $14) donation to the Livebarefoot Foundation.