Sustainability in the fashion industry is now more important than ever. Burberry and the British Fashion Council have recently expanded their sustainable ReBurberry Fabric Programme, while Finisterre is curating clothes made entirely of high-quality and recycled materials. Now, Swiss sportswear company On is introducing its latest running shoe, manufactured from carbon emissions, to lessen the company’s carbon footprint.
According to Nils Altogge, On’s head of technical innovation, CleanCloud is an EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam method developed through a collaboration between On, LanzaTech, Technip Energies, and Borealis. It effectively absorbs carbon from the air and converts it into high-performance shoe foam. On September 15, the business announced the production of its first shoe integrating the technology, the Cloudprime.
“Together with our partners, we’re pioneering technology to move away from fossil fuel resources,” Altogge said. “We’ve finished the proof of concept by making a handful of pairs [of Cloudprimes] on a pilot scale to show the world that it is possible to make materials and shoes from carbon emissions.”
The CleanCloud process is complicated, but it ultimately boils down to capturing carbon from industry emissions before it enters the environment. The carbon is then fermented and converted into liquid ethanol by bacteria, a process similar to that of brewing beer. This liquid is dehydrated to produce ethylene gas, which is then polymerized to produce EVA pellets, which can then be turned into performance foam.
“With CleanCloud, we’ve discovered the ability to create a high-performance EVA foam that can be used across industries,” Altogge said. “This innovation has the potential to impact the fashion and footwear space as well as broader applications, considering the materials in every mattress, in cars and airplane seats, packaging, and more.” “It is a solution that can touch many different industries.”
However, On is not the only manufacturer developing alternatives to petroleum-based EVA. Allbirds, a Brazilian shoe company, has developed a flip-flop made of EVA derived from sugarcane, and VivoBarefoot, a British company, is experimenting with running shoes made of hybrid-algae EVA foam. On, on the other hand, is the first shoe business to directly use carbon pollution in its manufacturing materials.