What does it mean to be vegan?
A product is "vegan" when it is made using and containing no animal products at all whatsoever. Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944 when he co-founded the Vegan Society in England. At first, he used it to mean "non-dairy vegetarian," but from 1951 the Society has defined it as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals." In addition to our respect for animals, our shoes are certified vegan because we believe that the environmental impact of leather, in total, outweighs the environmental impacts that are generated from the making of our shoes with manmade materials.
What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study?
According to M.A. Curran, in the Encyclopedia of Ecology, 2008, a “Life-cycle assessment, or LCA, is an environmental accounting and management approach that considers all the aspects of resource use and environmental releases associated with an industrial system from cradle to grave. Specifically, it is a holistic view of environmental interactions that covers a range of activities, from the extraction of raw materials from the Earth and the production and distribution of energy, through the use, and reuse, and final disposal of a product.”
Is your Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) cradle-to-grave?
No, our LCA is cradle to consumer. The data we examined to determine our environmental impacts through the LCA includes raw materials processing (sourcing/extraction), materials production (including all packaging), transportation of the materials to the factories where we make the shoes, the making of the shoes, transportation of the shoes from the factories in Italy to our warehouse in New Jersey, and delivery of the shoes by ground courier service to our customers in the United States, including an additional margin for potential returns. The care associated with owning and using footwear is not harmful to the environment, as opposed to, for example, clothes that need washing, and thus a cradle to consumer LCA was determined to be sufficient.
Can you explain what the various impacts, like Global Warming Potential (GWP), Ozone Layer Depletion (ODP), etc. mean?
You can find this information on pages 8 and 9 of our Lifecycle Assessment.
What are offsets? How do they work?
To offset means “to counteract (something) by having an equal and opposite force or effect.” Nearly all products and services impact the planet in some way. Impacts can be both mild and far-reaching. For example, a mild impact could be organic farming and a far-reaching impact could be flying on a commercial jet. If you can measure and quantify these impacts, as we have done through the LCA, then you can also try to offset them.
Offsets are intended to “counter-balance” the environmental impacts of a particular project or activity. So, for example, if you take a direct flight from JFK in New York to LAX in Los Angeles in Economy class, you can calculate the emissions from taking that flight. In this case, you would’ve contributed to the emission of 1.1 metric tons of CO2eq (carbon dioxide equivalent), a gas that contributes to Global Warming. A “carbon offset,” in this case, is a way to compensate for your emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere. Carbon emissions do not create local environmental issues only, but contribute to Global Warming, so a reduction of emissions in any part of the world can offset emissions anywhere. An example of an offset for your JFK-LAX flight would be to contribute towards the reforestation of an area anywhere in the world, like we are doing. Trees absorb CO2 and thus help reduce the CO2 content of the atmosphere. It is possible to calculate how many trees you need to plant, or how many wind turbines or solar panels that generate green energy instead of burning fossil fuels that need to be funded, in order to offset a particular amount of CO2.
Are all offsets certified?
No. Scientifically speaking, only Global Warming / Carbon Offsets are certifiable. Our offsets for carbon emissions are certified by SCS Global Services, a leading provider of environmental certification, that also worked on our LCA. We were also able to obtain certified offsets for our Fresh Water (FW) use through investment in Water Restoration Projects. The remaining offsets for the other impacts that we are working on with SCS Global Services are not certifiable, however, they are designed to offset, as accurately as possible, the additional environmental impacts of our product lifecycle from cradle to consumer. We are committed to doing the right thing, whether it is certifiable or not.
Why 110% offsets?
We don’t believe a product is good for the planet if it is “carbon neutral.” Not causing harm is not the same as doing good. To do good we need to go a step further. To do this, we measured our environmental impact through an LCA and then offset as many of our impacts as possible by 110%. In doing so, we are helping reverse the damage done to our planet, and hope to inspire others to join in to do the same.
Why are you offsetting plastic if you are already offsetting everything else?
We have calculated that, on average, a little over 50% of the total material that goes into the making of our shoes is composed of some sort of plastic, recycled or not. And although the environmental impacts identified by the LCA and associated with this plastic is offset by 110%, we recognize that there is an additional issue with plastic in general: it often ends up in our oceans. To address this, we decided to go an extra step, and offset the plastic used in our shoes by 110% as well.
We work with Plastic Bank, who provides a consistent, above-market rate for plastic waste, thus incentivizing its collection in third world countries, where the plastic pollution problem is more prevalent, to stop plastic waste from entering our oceans. Moreover, the people who gather this plastic can trade it for money, items, or services to make a living. Plastic Bank also gives local entrepreneurs the ability to set up and operate convenience stores for the poor, where plastic waste is the currency. Plastic collected through Plastic Bank is recycled and sold at a premium as Social Plastic®. For more information, please visit www.plasticbank.com.
Why are you a “Pending” Certified B-Corp? And what does that mean?
We were founded as a Public Benefit Corporation in Delaware in November 2018 under The Humble Shoe Company, Inc., and as we have not yet completed a full year in operation, we cannot yet apply for full B-Corp certification. However, given our Public Benefit Corporation status, philosophy and way of operating, we have been granted “Pending” Certified B-Corp status by B-Lab.
“Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” For more information, please visit www.bcorporation.net.
Are you going to be making more styles, colors, etc.?
Yes, we are. We believe in timeless, seasonless designs, and in making shoes that you can buy now and wear forever. We believe that less and better is more, and that owning a few high quality pairs of shoes, that will not break the bank, and will last you a long time, is better for you, for people and for the planet. We do plan to introduce some additional timeless styles in the future, and also to offer additional colors and vegan materials, but always in a mindful and sustainable way.