Many footwear companies are making alterations in their business practices to be more environmentally friendly. A company that produces ultra-thin shoes, Vivobarefoot and Bloom, a company that uses algae to make flexible foams, have teamed to take that to next level.
The Ultra III is a sneaker made from algae. In an interview with Smithsonian.com last October, Bloom co-founder Rob Falken discussed how the company harvests the algae.
work with any type of blue-green algae,” he said. “Blue-green algae is a polymer, so we basically vacuum it off a lake and dry it using our continuous solar drying process. Solar drying produces a charcoal-like flake, which we pulverize into powder. Once we have a pure powder—ours has no toxins—we make it into what is essentially a pellet, which we injection-mold into a panel and make a fiber out of it.”
This method is environmentally friendly not only because it offers an alternative to petroleum based materials commonly used in footwear but also it helps to clean waters clogged with algal blooms. These blooms secrete a toxin, domoic acid. This acid can accumulate in small fish and matriculate up the marine food chain; people that consume seafood contaminated with this toxin can be stricken with nausea and vomiting, and can be deadly in high enough levels.
According to a press release from Vivibarefoot, a single pair of Ultra III in US size 9 “turns 57 gallons of clean water to habitat and reduces 40 balloons worth of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere.”