Alex launches sustainable shoes in time for Veganuary

Alumnus Alex Ward is set to release 2,000 pairs of his new sustainable, vegan shoes to kick off the new year.

Alex, who graduated with a BSc in Sports Technology in 2007, is the Founder of aspect climate projects. The self-confessed shoe geek has spent more than 15 years in the footwear industry and his interest in environmental issues stem from childhood.

He saw an opportunity to combine his love of nature and shoes by putting the planet at the heart of the design process. Alex looked at the problem holistically, developing a design principle that considered every aspect of the shoe for its environmental impact and performance. This meant looking both inside and outside the shoe, considering all hidden components.

Each of the 54 parts that make up the shoes have been considered for their impact on the climate and biodiversity, with the materials used being 88.7% plant-based. The uppers are Pinatex, an innovative alternative to leather that is made using discarded pineapple leaves, a by-product from the food industry. Waste coconut husk fibres are used for internal components such as reinforcements and the footbed, where it is combined with a cork top. These materials have durability, breathability and elasticity that provide long-lasting support and comfort. The brand focused on sourcing sustainable materials that would enhance, rather than compromise the aesthetics of the shoes.

Vegan shoes on display

Through upcycling, the brand helps to prevent the release of carbon through the normal disposal or burning of these materials. Using by-products also means there is no need for any extra land, water or fertiliser during the growth phase. There is also a focus on materials harvested from trees. The coconut and cork are examples of this, along with FSC certified natural rubber soles sourced from Guatemala.

He wants to use his understanding of footwear design to challenge the way shoes are manufactured and to raise awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment.

He comments: "aspect climate projects wasn’t created to sell more shoes, it was created to sell better shoes – ones that balance environmental impact with performance."

A Sports Technology graduate, Alex brought his knowledge of product development to the project. He said:

I thought it could be particularly interesting as we approach the new year with “Veganuary” being a likely trend. As with vegan food not automatically being “healthy”, vegan shoes aren’t necessarily “sustainable” due to often having a high plastic content - aspect climate projects was created to change all that.

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.”

The vegan unisex shoes will be available for pre-order online in January.