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Recipe for a Carbon-Neutral Vegan Sneaker? Bamboo, Sugarcane and Recycled Plastic

Using a roster of natural materials like bamboo, sugarcane and cork, footwear brand Cariuma has created an entirely vegan, carbon-neutral sneaker.

On Wednesday, the sustainable Brazilian brand debuted its Ibi lace-up, a low-top cupsole style for men and women.

The shoe’s knit upper is crafted from a proprietary blend of bamboo fibers and recycled PET derived from post-consumer plastic bottles.

“Bamboo, being an extremely flexible and lightweight material, molds to your feet to give you grip-hugging comfort while at the same time allowing for breathability,” Michelle Katz, the brand’s public relations manager, told Sourcing Journal.

The plant’s stalks also self-regenerate from their own roots, eliminating the need to replant new crops. Bamboo grows well in varied conditions, and can thrive without irrigation. Cariuma claims to be the first footwear brand to successfully integrate the plant into a material for everyday use.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of recycled plastic lends structure to the bamboo fiber and brings a more elegant finish to the overall material, Katz said.

Formed from just three pieces, the upper’s knit construction was designed to require “minimal cutting, less labor, and less energy overall,” the brand said in a statement.

A sugarcane-based foam was developed for Ibi’s durable performance outsole, replacing the petroleum-based EVA used in most casual and athletic sneakers. The innovation makes the shoes 30 percent to 40 percent lighter than other similar styles on the market, Cariuma claimed.

A “memory bio-foam insole” made from cork and mammona oil rounds out the shoe’s fully vegan design.

Cariuma’s latest style diligently eschews some of the industry’s most harmful material profiles in favor of innovative, plant-based alternatives—and whatever minimal carbon emissions the production and shipping of the shoe does create are mitigated by carbon offsets.

A partnership with Native Energy allows the brand to fully offset its carbon footprint through Amazon rainforest conservation and biodiversity preservation efforts.