When it comes to sneakers for an active lifestyle, large corporations like Nike and Adidas come to mind, even though their products may not be the most environmentally friendly. The Explorer V2 Sneakers by 8000 Kicks are a great example of sustainable shoes because they are not only sleek and modern, but also durable, flexible, and waterproof. Also, the Explorer V2’s are 100% vegan since they are made from repurposed algae and hemp - the “sober” cousin of cannabis. The sneakers cost $129 (plus shipping), which is more than leading brands, however, they do not depend on oil-refined shoe molds, help the environment, and are durable. Additionally, hemp shoe production requires 72% less CO2 and 70% less water than conventional methods. Although the wide selection of sneakers name brands influences my purchases, I love the simplicity and the comfort appeal of the Explorer V2s, especially since the style is similar to what most of society has been groomed to find desirable.
Traditional sneakers tend to be made from plastics and cotton, but these can have devastating environmental effects because of their dependence on fossil fuels, pesticides, and the overuse of water. 8000 Kicks partnered with Bloom to create their super-light algae foam sole with increased durability and sponsored the removal of harmful algae; each shoe has 100g of repurposed algae caused by eutrophication in heavily impacted US freshwater ecosystems, like Florida. Eutrophication is an aquatic process caused by an excessive amount of anthropogenic agricultural runoff like nitrogen/phosphorus in fertilizers. However, Bloom’s repurposing of the algae combats the harm and promotes a regenerative shoe model. Hemp yarn was used for the insoles and upper design because it contains temperature regulating material and has been widely used for its anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. Even though hemp is a Sativa branch, it has no psychoactive smoking properties, but hemp plantations do remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Furthermore, hemp is extremely durable and a fabric coating has been added to make the sneakers splashproof, dustproof, and easy to clean. These shoes are also packaged in a recyclable box, thereby minimizing our waste stream impact. Although the price is higher, the materials used are more sustainable as they contribute to restoring and conserving our ecosystems, and these are aspects I’d desire from the products I purchase.
Not only are the V2 Explorers 100% vegan, but they also contribute to carbon sequestration because of the photosynthetic growth of both hemp and algae. Algae becomes a carbon-trapping controlled crop for sole foam by harvesting where it grows out of control and returning filtered water to natural environments. Additionally, algae are abundant and considered renewable because they’re among the fastest-growing organisms, don’t require fossil fuels, and protect marine ecosystems from harm. The footwear industry is responsible for producing 700 million metric tons of GHGs/year and accounts for 1.5% of global climate change impacts. The bulk of impacts come from transport, but the use of Bloom Foam reduces the environmental impact of each foam component by 40%. I admired 8000 Kicks’ website for the abundance of transparency, but what stood out most was that they managed to reduce their emissions for a pair of running shoes to 4.1kg of CO2, compared to the average 14kg of CO2. The process for acquiring hemp fibers is fairly straightforward: 1) harvesting, 2) retting (fiber-bark separation), 3) carding into strands to remove impurities, 4) pulping, matting or steam, and 5) weaving into a textile. Although this sounds like a simple process, we lack information on the conditions of workers in their factory in China and if their salary is sufficient for their cost of living. Even though this factory depends on 30-40% renewable energy, they are always aiming to improve. Many don’t realize how crucial the sustainability of core materials is or how they’ll minimize life cycle impacts and can be as effective or stylish as traditional products.
Before the Explorer V2s, founder Bernardo Duque Carreira named the company DopeKicks and his grandmother Otilia helped create the Explorer V1s. Bernardo’s inspiration came from a joke mentioned about sustainable weed-based shoes as he was smoking a joint with some friends. The company is committed to sustainability and is aware it still produces emissions, therefore, they are committed to carbon sequestration and should also be expected to continuously improve their methods. They invest in capturing CO2 via hemp farms and the plantation of trees because every newly planted tree removes an average of 50kg of CO2 per year during the 20-50 growing years. Commitment to carbon capture is evident through the 4,500+ trees the company has already planted through Ecologi, an organization dedicated to carbon reduction and tree planting. Not only have 8000 Kicks created patented hemp shoes, but they also have hemp masks that support their push for carbon neutrality. During the pandemic, 10,000 were donated to police, firefighters, and others in need; 30 pairs of shoes were delivered to City Rescue Mission, an NGO that provides food and clothing for the local homeless. For US & UK orders over $100, shipping is free, making the consumer's purchase more feasible. It makes me wonder why only these countries receive this compensation and none in the Global South or even Portugal, considering the Explorer V1s/masks are manufactured there. Even though 8000 Kicks still has some emissions, I praise them for their commitments and initiatives supporting a circular economy through the regenerative development of their products and the preservation of ecosystems.