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Battle for Lowest-Carbon Sneaker Heats Up With New Kiwi Brand

A new footwear brand claims its sneakers leave the world’s smallest footprint—carbon footprint, that is.

New Zealand label YY Nation launches in the U.S. market this week with its Legacy footwear collection, which includes the ultra-low-impact Nimbo sneaker. Made from bamboo and algae, the style—which spent three years in research and development—generates three times less carbon than a standard pair of sneakers.

The brand's low-impact Nimbo sneaker.
The brand’s low-impact Nimbo sneaker. YY Nation

All silhouettes in the line range generate between 5.45kg and 8.15kg of carbon, which is 42 percent to 61 percent lower than the range of emissions generated by most comparable products on the market, YY Nation said. The range has been Zero Carbon Certified, and each style has also been assessed and certified by New Zealand and Australia sustainability credibility groups Thinkstep-Anz and Ekos.

The company embarked on a journey to develop the most ecologically friendly footwear on earth, YY Nation founding director Jeremy Bank said. “While we’re off to a good start, good is not enough,” he noted. “These are the worst shoes we’ll ever make in terms of carbon footprint but are a leading sustainable option.”

The Alto skateboarding sneaker.
The Alto skateboarding sneaker. YY Nation

This week’s launch represents a commitment to “a carbon negative future that combines rigorous sustainability standards with incredible design and comfort,” he added.

While the Nimbo sneaker boasts the best carbon emissions rating of the grouping, the collection features three other styles designed for minimal environmental impact. The Alto high-top boot is made for all-terrain adventures, while the Cirro lace-up was made for everyday casual wear. Meanwhile, the Strato skateboarding sneaker’s design nods to ‘90s nostalgia.

YY Nation's Cirro lace-up.
YY Nation’s Cirro lace-up. YY Nation

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According to YY Nation, the shoes’ components were chosen to be reused and repurposed, and to minimize waste. Soles are made using algae, sugarcane and natural rubber replacing oil-based polymers, and the styles’ “leather” accents are made from pineapple leaf fibers. Uppers employ naturally moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating merino wool, as well as a woven mesh made from 30 percent nylon and 70 percent Oeko-Tex-certified bamboo fibers, which lends breathability. Laces are made from post-consumer plastics.

“Every component of the Legacy footwear collection, from the soles to the laces to the packaging, is made with sustainable, natural or waste materials that would otherwise be landfill-bound,” Bank added. “We are conscious of how we bring things into the world but more careful of what we leave behind.”

The Strato lace-up's "leather" details are made from pineapple leaf fibers.
The Strato lace-up’s “leather” details are made from pineapple leaf fibers. YY Nation

The collection’s four styles launched in 12 color options that vary by silhouette, including rose quartz, vibrant yellow, aqua and tangerine. Available on the brand’s e-commerce site in men’s and women’s sizes ranging from 3.5-15 and 5-13, respectively, the styles retail for $98-$128.