The footwear is made primarily from recycled wine corks. "Natural cork is already one of the world's most sustainable and environmentally friendly products," said Mike Baker, Founder and CEO of SOLE. "The ability to turn used wine corks into durable and attractive footwear is an elegant way to extend the lifecycle of this remarkable raw material while providing consumers with a terrific new product that literally lightens their carbon footprint."
The Kickstarter campaign, titled ReCORK: Imagine Carbon Negative Footwear, will start October 29 and can be accessed at http://kck.st/19OB6bd. The campaign will fund the first production run of footwear.
The goal is to raise $150,000 for initial production of the Grace, a pretty and functional ballet flat for women, and the Tour, a fashionable, casual everyday shoe for men. Each shoe includes a 100% recycled cork footbed that contours to the unique shape of each person's foot, and a 100% recycled cork midsole. Rewards for project sponsors will include footwear from the line starting at a donation of $99.
"We're still a relatively small company and to make carbon negative footwear a reality, we need the help of the community," Baker said. "Fundamentally, I've also always believed in the concept of crowd funding. I want to make quality products that people actually want, and Kickstarter is a way of asking consumers what those are."
SOLE manufactures custom footbeds and footwear, and ReCORK, a SOLE sponsored initiative, is North America's largest natural cork recycling program. It may seem like an odd pairing, but having always used recycled materials in their products, it made sense for SOLE to adopt an initiative that would eventually turn recycled wine corks into footwear.
In just four years, ReCORK has built a cork collection network of 1,800 partners who have helped gather more than 45 million wine corks. These partners include vineyards, restaurants, tasting rooms and major wine purveyors such as MGM Grand, BevMo! and American Airlines. The program exists to promote natural cork, advocate for the greater use of cork over wine closures derived from non-renewable resources such as oil and aluminum, and to recycle some of the 1.3 billion wine corks consumed in the U.S. each year.
ReCORK has supported the planting of 8,000 new cork oak trees to date. Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a leading organization that conducts carbon audits, recently determined that ReCORK's tree planting efforts will more than offset the C02 associated with the company's cork collection and footwear production, resulting in a carbon negative operation. "We have been authentic and rigorous in our efforts to reduce the footprint of our collection efforts and supply chain from day one," Baker said. "Now it is quantified and we couldn't be happier with the results. We intend to continually track and manage our net footprint with a commitment to maintaining a carbon negative position."
Natural cork is one of the world's most sustainable raw materials. Recyclable and biodegradable, using it provides an economic incentive to preserve millions of acres of cork oak forests that trap greenhouse gases, prevent desertification and provide habitat for thousands of species and the world's best paid agriculture jobs. There is no shortage of cork, and cork oak trees are not cut down to make cork: Only a portion of their bark is removed every nine years during a lifespan or 200 or more years.