In recent years, it seems like every week there is a new sustainable shoe company, yet somehow Cariuma has found a way to stand out from the rest. While Veja focuses primarily on leather casual shoes and allbirds on more athletic style shoes, Cariuma found its niche by focusing on more casual, mesh-type footwear inspired by board sports (i.e. skateboarding and surfing). Their newest product, the IBI, is as sustainable as sustainable casual footwear goes. From materials used to manufacturing practices, the Brazilian shoe company has made a conscious effort to constantly improve their sustainability and it shines through in the IBI.
In order to fully understand the sustainability of the shoe it is important to first understand the sustainability of the manufacturer. At first, the company focused on the social aspect of sustainability; assuring that everyone involved in the production of the shoe (from the farmers to the factory workers) was taken care of, not just financially but medically and socially too. As the company evolved they put more emphasis on other aspects of sustainability and the construction of a new factory in Brazil (closer to the source of most of their materials) is just one example of this. Recently, Cariuma also started a practice where they plant two (2) trees for every pair of shoes sold. Often times sustainable companies can make unsustainable products, so what exactly makes the IBI a sustainable shoe?
For me, a sustainable product starts with the materials that go into it. The main material that goes into these shoes is a bamboo fiber. The bamboo used here is certified by the Forest Stewardship Concil, OEKO-TEX & the Organic Crop Improvement Association. What this means is that the bamboo is sourced from a sustainably managed organic bamboo forest. The next material they mention is the EVA used to make the sole of the shoe. This material comes is made from sugarcane and according to the company it is carbon negative. Here is where I think they fall a bit short as a company. I would have liked to see how they arrived to this conclusion seeing as competitors (i.e. allbirds (https://cdn.allbirds.com/image/upload/v1586808732/Carbon%20Number/Allbirds_Product_Carbon_Footprint_Methodology.pdf)) are a bit more transparent about this even though both companies buy their offsets. What allbirds did here is they outlined step-by-step why their shoes are close to carbon neutral (even including the process of machine washing the shoes once they are purchased). Do not let this distract you from the eco-friendliness of the rest of the materials. The insole is made out of recyclable cork and mamona oil (an organic alternative to petroleum used to make the foam part). Last but not least, the little details of the IBI’s such as the thread used for stitching, the laces, inner lining and even the logo are all made from recycled water bottles. This last point helps highlight Cariuma’s dedication to becoming more sustainable since they are actively trying to move away from virgin plastics.
Although bamboo fiber is not as durable as leather, it is cheaper to produce and more sustainable. The fact that all materials that go into the shoe are 100% vegan also help this rating. Even the small details such as eyelets and shoelaces are produced from recycled plastic bottles. I think it would be a good idea for them to market this fact about their eyelets seeing as this information could not be found anywhere on their website for the average buyer.
As mentioned, Cariuma has done a lot to ensure that the IBI’s are produced as sustainably as possible; from working conditions of farmers and factory workers to materials used. I docked them 1/2 planet, however, because their current factory is in China which requires a lot of transportation of materials. Once their Brazilian factory is completed this rating will be likely to change. While Cariuma buys a lot of their carbon offsets, the damage to the environment that arises from transportation is still there.
Cariuma is a company that is dedicated to sustainability from the top down and I really think their constant change shows this. Although they are transparent for the most part on the production of their shoes, I would like them to go into a bit more detail (or at least make more information available) about their claim to the IBI’s carbon neutrality.
If you are looking for a new sustainable, 100% vegan casual pair of shoes and do not mind paying a little bit more ($98 USD) for that sustainability, then the IBI (https://cariuma.com/collections/the-ibi-mens/products/ibi-mineral-blue-knit-sneaker-men?variant=29426687279178) could very well be the shoe for you.