Shoes for Biodiversity and Climate: Scientifically Designed

aspect climate projects’ is on a mission to inspire change in the footwear industry. One that helps to create shoes better for the Earth, and better for your feet.

They have created a range of unisex, plant-based shoes that have had each and every component independently tested for its impact on the climate and biodiversity. No other shoe brand has gone to this level of detail to ensure its environmental credentials and transparency.

man sitting on steps weearing white shoes
Alex, founder of aspect climate projects

The Beginnings of aspect climate projects

Founder Alex Ward, a self-confessed ‘shoe geek’, has worked for over 15 years in the footwear industry.

He grew up with an interest in environmental issues thanks to his parents who managed a nature reserve in Essex, UK. In the past few years Alex grew increasingly concerned at the lack of action around the climate crisis, as well as a growing frustration at how the term ‘sustainable’ was being used for marketing purposes in the fashion industry. He saw an opportunity to combine his love of nature and shoes by putting the planet at the heart of the design process.

While other brands have attempted to replace elements of their shoes with more sustainable alternatives, Alex looked at the problem holistically, developing a design principle that considered every aspect of the shoe for its performance and impact on planetary well-being. This meant looking both inside and outside the shoe, considering all hidden components. He embraced the new exciting technical innovations that were challenging the current environmentally damaging practices and dug deep into complex supply-chains and trialled pioneering new materials.

He looked for nature-based solutions, sourcing plant-based alternatives which delivered on sustainability while also being flexible and hard-wearing enough to be used in shoes, thus creating ‘aspect climate projects’.

Materials Layout of ethical shoes
Materials Layout

Responsibly Designed Shoes for Biodiversity

Each of the 54 components that make up their first style ‘Suber’ have been considered for their impact on the climate and biodiversity, making them possibly the most responsibly designed shoes on the market. The materials used are plant-based and have been chosen for their incredible natural properties as well as their ability to be easily replenished. The brand has focused on sourcing sustainable materials that enhance the footwear aesthetics, creating shoes that are better for the Earth, and better for your feet.

The uppers are Pinatex, an innovative hard-wearing alternative to leather that is made using discarded pineapple leaves, a by-product from the food industry. Waste coconut husk fibres combined with cork are used for internal components such as reinforcements and the footbed. These materials have durability, breathability and elasticity that provide long-lasting support and comfort, and through their upcycling, the brand helps to prevent the release of carbon through the normal disposal or burning.

Using these byproducts also means there is no need for any extra land, water or fertiliser during the growth phase and their purchase gives added income to farming communities, helping to sustain plant-based, decarbonising economies.

Shoe with pineapple
Antique Gold Pineapple

The Focus on Climate

There is also a focus on materials harvested from trees, such as cork, coconut, and the natural rubber used on the soles, as they stay in the ground and continue to sequester high amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. As well as designing using carbon-sequestering plants, the brand will be offsetting one-tonne of carbon for each pair of the ‘Suber’ style sold, this goes beyond net-zero and has a net positive impact on the climate.

Believing that brands shouldn’t decide themselves if they are ‘sustainable’, they sought the help of independent conservation consultancy Biodiversify who evaluated every material for their effect on the climate and biodiversity. They concluded that the shoes are “a gold standard example of how shoe design can truly consider environmental impact” and their findings are openly on shared on the brand website to ensure complete transparency to customers.

The shoes have been independently reviewed for their impact on the climate by conservation consultancy Biodiversify. Founder Dr Mike Burgass commended aspect climate projects as a “gold standard example of how shoe design can truly consider environmental impact.”

Materials range of ethical shoes
Materials Range

Where to Get a Pair

The shoes are for sale worldwide on a pre-order basis through the brand’s website and are available as a limited batch run for a limited time.

“We wanted to ensure that all of our shoes have a home to go to from the start so we chose to work on a pre-order basis. This means that we only order the amount of materials needed and cuts out the need for ‘guessing’ what customers might buy which in turn minimises over-production and waste” Alex advised. “We appreciate this means a longer wait for our customers to get their shoes but we would like our customers to make informed, considered purchase choices so we are proud to adopt this slow-fashion ethos and hope to be at the forefront of this in the footwear world.”

Any returned shoes will be re-distributed to customers on the waiting list who may have missed out on the pre-orders.

The delivery elements have also not been forgotten when it comes to acting in the best interests of the planet. The shoe box is made from FSC-certified post-consumer recycled cardboard and is fully recyclable and biodegradable, as is the tissue paper the shoes are wrapped in. The boxes are printed with vegetable-based inks and the shipping bags are made from a corn-based material that can be home-composted.

Shipping itself is carried out worldwide via a carbon-neutral delivery service, and the brand works with Ecologi to offset one tonne of carbon for each pair sold. For context, a ‘typical’ sneaker creates 30-40kg of CO2 to produce and although these shoes would already be lower than this, the brand are offsetting 1000kg to help create more meaningful change.

To ensure maximum wear from each pair ‘aspect climate projects’ have also partnered with ‘Sal’s Shoes’, a charity that donates shoes to people in need around the world. Customers who donate their worn ‘aspect climate projects’ shoes to this cause will receive a discount on their next pair.

Girl wearing Shoes for Biodiversity

Looking Forward

The brand are entering a market space full of claims about sustainability, but their thorough, detailed message is gaining in momentum. Alex says of this “we are proud to be doing things differently and for the lengths we have gone to to ensure full accountability. We didn’t create the brand to sell more shoes, rather it’s about creating better shoes, ones that balance environmental impact with performance.”

aspect climate projects’ range is available until in four colours exclusively on their website until February 28th.