Sunday, March 3, 2024

In Just 3 Years, Roam Has Proven That the Future of Footwear Is Sustainable

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With its new spring collection, Roam continues its sustainability efforts with vegan and recycled materials and Oprah’s Favorite Things-worthy styles.

Roam has always been making sustainable shoes. Kay Sides founded Roam in 2018 with the goal of elevating eco footwear in order to disrupt the fast-fashion culture that’s not just devastating the clothing industry, but the footwear industry, too.

“It’s so important because like many other areas in our industry there is a tremendous amount of waste,” Sides tells Ethos. “Waste in materials, fabrications, packaging, and enormous impact to our environment,” she says.

Like the clothing industry, footwear has a history of excess—more than 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced every single year. On average, a single pair of shoes produces 60 pounds of carbon dioxide. Most shoes wind up in landfills or overcrowding thrift stores. With virgin materials, largely sourced from fossil fuels, shoes don’t break down easily, either. According to data from Quantis, the footwear industry produces 1.4 percent of all global GHG emissions. By comparison, the aviation industry produces 2.5 percent of all emissions.

The industry is taking steps toward circularity; sneaker giant Adidas has been leading the way with plans to be 95 percent sustainable by 2025. Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Valentino have all launched eco sneakers. But fancier footwear has been lagging behind. Industry leaders like Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin have yet to drop major sustainability initiatives, let alone shoes.

Driven by nature

Creating a truly sustainable and vegan brand was born out of Sides’ connection to nature.

Sides says growing up in Hawaii she was always in the ocean surfing and diving, or in the mountains hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, and snowboarding. “Nature has been part of my life since I was born,” she says.

“I have also raised my daughter in nature. Nature gifts us with so much—perspective, solace, inspiration, creativity, silence, and connection,” she says.

“It teaches resiliency, surrender, humbleness, problem-solving, and grit. You can’t control it, you can just experience it and that’s a beautiful gift.”

Sides says we can’t be responsible and thoughtful about nature if we don’t have a relationship with it. That ethos drove Sides to start the Roam Foundation, something she says came from her heart and her truth. The Foundation works to expose at-risk children to nature and proceeds from the brand’s sales go to support the Foundation. Covid put a damper on its goals, but it’s ramping up excursions again.

That connection to nature is so important that Sides says at this point in time, businesses should just be inherently responsible and conscious in everything they do, it shouldn’t have to be something you have to “shout from the rooftops,” she says.

Increasing sustainability

In just a few years, the brand has become a cult favorite, earning a spot on Oprah’s Favorite Things list last holiday season. “These slides are not only stylish, they’re also a dream to wear. It feels like they have a pillowy cushion that’s been sculpted for your feet,” Oprah Daily said of the shoes.

The newest collection builds on the styles that have made Roam’s shoes go-to’s. The puffy sandals and slides are cozy and cute, busting any myths that sustainability means sacrificing on style.

The new collection features the brand’s first certifiable bio EVA outsoles made from sugar cane and plants. All of the brand’s packaging is certifiably recyclable, and Sides says the company uses existing vegan materials to be part of the “no-waste chain” and to cause no harm to animals. “It did take us over a year to create our outsole,” Sides says.

Last October, Roam announced that all of its shoes will be made with the bio EVA outsoles. It’s now added the custom EVA midsole, too.

Sides says the company is still working on creating custom-molded footbeds out of corn and its neoprene wrap, as well as its recycled tread.

“It’s not easy to create a product completely certifiably sustainable,” Sides says. “But, we are deeply committed to causing as little harm as possible. Everywhere we can continue to close the gap we will continue to.”

Shop Roam’s new Spring collection here.

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