If you are in the market for new footwear, do your part in adding to the material chain of custody by sipping on a bottle of your favorite vintage! In a partnership with ReCork, a North American cork recycling initiative, Canadian footwear manufacturer Sole has used over 40 million corks to produce their superior ergonomic footbeds. The cork collection includes men’s and women’s sandals, but we are excited to learn that Sole will be adding boots, ballet flats, casual slip-ons and lace-up looks next fall.
Photo by Shutterstock
Although cork is renewable, only after 40 years of age is the tree bark suitable use in wine storage. From there it can take 9-12 years more until the thick outer layer cork oak tree bark has regrown and can be stripped again. This kind of wait time puts the material in high demand, and endangers the trees from being over harvested. “A lot of people don’t even realize that cork grows on trees. I like how simple that message is,” says Mike Baker, President of Sole. “By collecting used wine corks, we’re taking what would otherwise be a waste material and giving it new life.”
Sole’s use of cork in their footwear, is also displacing the petroleum-based EVA (ethlyene-vinyl acetate) rubber they have traditionally used. Because cork is similarly lightweight, elastic, and flexible, it is an excellent choice as a replacement.
Although Sole has a big part in the effort to conserve virgin cork, it is the large network of partners involved that makes the program really effective. ReCork is sponsored by Amorim, the world’s largest cork producer located in Portugal. ReCork has added thousands of reclaim centers at restaurants, wine shops, and other venues, but Sole thinks it is most compelling when they have footwear re-sellers join in. “When a retailer can serve as a collection partner and then sell shoes made from the cork that was brought into their stores, it’s very self-fulfilling. And it’s a great story that retailers can bring to their customers.”