When Finland-based sneakerheads Son Chua and Jesse Tran started to get environmental anxiety once they started thinking about the planetary impact of their coveted kicks, they set out on a quest to find a sustainable solution.
“Your favourite morning beverage is now a 100% waterproof, great looking shoe. And they’re made with sustainable materials, so you can feel great about wearing them,” states ‘Rens’ Kickstarter Campaign, the brand name the duo has given to their sneakers made out of coffee.
Rens, the first shoe in the world to be made from coffee, was 100 percent funded in under 24 hours and 400 percent funded in under a week.
Coming from Vietnam, both Rens founders have first-hand experience of the footwear industry’s environmental impact:
“It’s unbelievable how giant companies churn out millions of unsustainable products, using unsustainable materials and doing very little to mitigate their impact,” says CEO Jesse Tran.
When looking into sustainable footwear options, the founders found the market’s offering to be lacking.
Co-founder Son Chu explains, “Jesse and I are both young sneakerheads who are also concerned about the origin and impact of the shoes we wear. It felt like no one was making an eco-friendly option for us – for our generation. So, we decided to make one ourselves.”
Son Chua and Jesse Tran
The coffee grounds that your local barista discards by the minute can be used to create “an incredibly flexible yarn” with properties ideal for footwear:
Odour-proof — coffee creates micro-pockets that are able to trap odour from dreaded “swamp foot.”
Anti-bacterial — coffee is antimicrobial, making it a great disinfectant. Important for preventing the above.
Fast-drying — according to Rens, the micro-pockets allow the outer layer of the shoe to dry “200% faster than standard functional polyester.” They also make for great breathability.
UV light blocking — coffee has UV-blocking properties that could ensure the longevity of the colour in clothing.
The company are so confident of the features above that they stated in their press release that they can even be worn without socks!
The “super stretchy” slip-on sneakers come in a variety of colours and feature a large hashtag on the front — representative of the viral stir Rens is aiming to cause. They are also 100 percent waterproof thanks to their trademarked AquaScreen Tech, incredibly lightweight at 227g per shoe, nonslip and vegan.
The process to make the yarn from the recycled coffee grounds sees them thoroughly dried, then, pulverized, pelletized, mixed with recycled plastic pellets which are then heated and the yarn is spun from the mixture.
Coffee appears in the removable insole, inner lining and knit upper of the shoe.
The founder’s decision to use coffee was not their first, they started out with cotton before getting back to the drawing board after realising the prototype was not “sustainable enough.”
Using coffee has an advantage to the environment
According to the company, 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day and each pair of Rens uses the waste from 21 cups of coffee (300 grams each).
“The coffee industry produces 23 million tons of organic waste per year, most of which ends up in landfills. These used coffee grounds are abundant and a contributor to climate change. Spent coffee waste produces methane, a compound that is a 30 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. That’s why Rens created a shoe that can recycle 66 pounds (30 kilos) of spent coffee grounds for every hundred pairs of sneakers manufactured.”
The company is also contributing to tackling the world’s plastic problem that sees 35 billion plastic bottles end up in US landfills every year by utilizing 6 recycled plastic bottles in every pair of Rens.
A humble contribution but every contribution is important considering that it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there will be fish.
Plastic will also make your shoes last longer. “By using this material to construct our shoes we greatly enhance our product’s durability while also drastically increasing the lifecycle of this typically single-use product.”
The startup also claims that down to the shoes’ minimalist design allows for their manufacturing process to use fewer resources and generate less waste.
Through their preliminary research, the company has found that Rens have 80% smaller impact on the environment than leather shoes and 60% less than textile ones.
Rens are aiming to make their shoes available from November 2019. Meanwhile, they are continuing to improve the sustainable sneaker by making the upper lining even thinner and more comfortable.