Wool provides excellent material properties and is highly appreciated by Icebug users. It has great insulation qualities and wicking capabilities, meaning the fabric easily wicks moisture away from the body. It also has natural anti-odor quality and “self-cleaning” ability. It is a great material to use for active days in the outdoors.
Though wool is derived from a renewable resource (sheep), it does not mean that wool has zero environmental impact. Sheep need a large amount of land to graze on, and the production of wool also requires water, chemicals, and energy to become a material that can be used in a final commercial product. At Icebug, we only use wool with guaranteed concern about animal welfare, with a minimum guarantee about mulesing-free wool. Mulesing is a cruel treatment where skin is carved from the sheep to avoid maggot infestation. Woolpower is from South American sheep and our wool padding is made of Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified wool, sourced from New Zealand.
Using recycled wool minimizes the pollution of air, water, and soil as well as reducing CO2 emissions compared to virgin wool. The Woolpower material is made of 45 % recycled wool and has the same color that it already had from its first lifecycle, thus avoiding the need to add dying chemicals. This is why our recycled wool has some mixed colors, which gives it unique aesthetics.
Wool is such a perfect material to create good foot climate and for Aura ReWool the entire upper is designed as a one layer engineered knit to keep it as airy and thin as possible. We use 50 % recycled wool in the airy knitted upper, mixed with 50% recycled PET polyester to keep a good durability level.
Icebug also uses a lining material with 70 % recycled wool. It's often difficult to know the exact origin of the recycled wool since it is collected from several production sites. The traceability of wool is developing and at the moment there is limited availability of wool that is both recycled and 100 % traceable.
However, the Swedish clothing company Woolpower, has high traceability of the recycled wool. The factory and production is located in Östersund, Sweden, see https://woolpower.se/en/our-responsibility/fabric/. Instead of discarding the scrap material from their production, it is collected and needle-felted, thereby upcycling the wool. It is mixed with synthetics, but always has a minimum of 45% wool content. We see great benefit in upcycling materials (wool with short fibers) that would otherwise be discarded, to give it a new value. Adding synthetics to the wool increases the durability so that it can be used longer and in harder conditions. Because after all, the best thing from a sustainability point of view is to use the products that we consume for as long as possible.
Leather is an excellent material for durable, comfortable and good-looking shoes. It is also a byproduct of the milk and meat industry, and the resource is renewable. The ethical and environmental side of the leather industry has long been under surveillance. Since several years Icebug has only used leather that is Gold standard rated by the Leather Working Group (LWG), except for safety shoes with specific requirements. LWG is a non-profit membership organization of brands, retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and technical experts across the leather supply chain. When a tannery reaches the gold level, it means that it scores highest in all requirements, from the environmental management system to restricted substances. Read more: https://www.leatherworkinggroup.com
ECCO, the supplier of our Nubuck leather, has developed the DriTanTM process which uses substantially less water, chemicals and energy. A recent process Life cycle assessment (2023) shows that DriTanTM causes 34% less climate emissions compared to traditional chrome tanning.
From FW23 the nubuck leather in Icebug shoes comes from SPOOR - part of Danish Scan-Hide. SPOOR tracks the leather down to single hides and cows! Through SPOOR’s traceability data, we ensure responsible sourcing – from a region with some of the highest animal welfare standards. And making sure that we do not source from areas causing deforestation. SPOOR also provides sustainability footprint data for the leather that is even order specific. Ecco provides the data for their processes to SPOOR who then combines the input to a total LCA result. The SPOOR Nubuck with DriTanTM has about half the carbon footprint of the global average for leather (Wordly material base, former Higg MSI).
Sourcing, regions and partners
Icebug buys Nubuck leather from ECCO Tannery Thailand. The raw hides are from now on bought from SPOOR Scanhide and origin from Danish cows, tanned in ECCO Leather B.V. in the Netherlands. The hides tanned in the Netherlands are shipped to Thailand, where they are re-tanned and finished in ECCO Tannery Thailand Co. Ltd.
The Suede leather is delivered from Shin Li Chang in Taiwan and made from hides with origin Argentina, name of hide suppliers: (1)Curtume CBR S.A. (2) Sadesa (3)Hispano (4)JBS Leather. The hides are bought wet blue, so there is one first tanning step before the hides arrive to Shin Li Chang, who performs the second tanning step. It is still difficult to find specific sustainability data about the Suede leather, so Icebug use the (high) global average from the Wordly (former Higg) data base to evaluate the footprint of Suede leather.
ECCO Tannery (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
SHIN LI CHANG CO., LTD.
Different foams are used in midsoles and insoles to create durable comfort for shoes. Different compounds and processes are used to create different properties. The weight of the soles are quite heavy relatively to other parts of the shoe, thus having a substantial impact on the carbon footprint of the final products.
At present we use three different component mixes for all midsoles; 1) 80% EVA mixed with 20 % BLOOM with traditional foaming technique, 2) EVA processed with supercritical technology, and 3) one compound called “BUGforce” with EVA reinforced with POE for higher rebound and durability.
For insoles we use either 80% EVA mixed with 20 % BLOOM and two compounds from sole supplier Ortholite: OrthoLite® HybridPlus-Bio™ and OrthoLite® Hybrid™
EVA or Ethylene vinyl acetate is commonly used in shoes because it’s lightweight, has excellent shock absorption properties, and is flexible in a wide temperature range. We use it in Icebug midsoles and insoles. However, most EVA is fossil-based and difficult to recycle. Icebug’s vision is to be able to recycle and close the loop of foams and/or to use full biomass (from algae, sugarcane or corn are options we explore). We are constantly searching for materials to reach this vision, while keeping high performance and durability as highest priorities.
BLOOM foam of algae
We were happy to find an algae foam material that reduces our dependency on oil. BLOOM® materials contain algae biomass and has similar material properties to ‘normal’ Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA). It is mixed with EVA and so far, we use 9% algae in the Icebug insoles and midsoles (20% BLOOM® masterbatch with 45% algae). Development is ongoing to raise the percentage of algae, in close cooperation with the supplier.
The algae foam is made by the company Algix, who works with companies to harvest harmful algae that are polluting water sources to create a usable foam product instead, see https://www.bloommaterials.com. By harvesting the algae and recirculating the fresh water back it also helps to keep the nature in balance by removing harmful and toxic algae growth. The algae use carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and locks it away in a solid biomass. It gives less CO2 emissions, and lowers the dependency on petroleum, a non-renewable resource.
Supercritical foam - High performance with light weight
For some midsoles we introduce supercritical foam from SS23 - a new fantastic compound. Instead of the traditional EVA foaming process we are using supercritical liquid foaming which provides superior cushioned comfort and a stronger energy return giving the responsiveness we are looking for.
Super Critical foam uses a fluid foaming process with Nitrogen gas instead of using chemical agents in the foaming process. Nitrogen gas is a non-harmful gas (78 % of the air we breathe is nitrogen). The supercritical foam has a more uniform cell structure which make the foam more resilient, so the cushioning last longer. It is approximately 70 g lighter per pair than traditional EVA meaning that the climate emissions per pair are also lower (as carbon emissions are connected to weight of material).
Ortholite® insoles with recycled polyurethane
Ortholite® foam is based on polyurethane and used in some of Icebug’s insoles. The Ortholithe® materials contain 15-43 % recycled PU foam and 5-7 % recycled rubber. The Hybrid plus Bio also contains 7 % of bio oil from castor beans. See details in links below:
OrthoLite® Hybrid™ https://www.ortholite.com/technology/hybrid/
OrthoLite® HybridPlus-Bio™ https://www.ortholite.com/technology/hybrid-plus-bio/
Recycled plastics saves energy and oil. Icebug uses recycled material whenever it is possible, without compromising on functional quality. We use recycled content to save raw materials, use less energy and generate less waste and climate emissions than virgin materials. Checking the footprint of our most used recycled fabrics (nylon and Polyester/PET) in the Worldly MSI data base (former Higg) shows that recycled material saves about 20-50 % of carbon emissions compared with virgin materials.
It can be a challenge to make recycled fibers durable enough. Icebug’s development Team is searching and testing to find the optimal mix of recycled and durable textiles. Icebug aims to use recycled fibers in the optimal composition to give both high durability and sustainability wins.
The source of recycled materials can either be scraps from production or post-consumer waste. As the demand for recycled materials rises, there is also increasing needs for traceability of the source of recycled materials. To ensure legitimacy, we always ask suppliers for certificates that guarantee the source and traceability of recycled materials by GRS certificates (Global recycling standard) or similar. Some suppliers can also show good traceability in other ways, for instance if they use their own production waste.
Polyester is one of the most used synthetic fibers in the world. Some of the benefits of using polyester fibers are that they are durable and do not absorb water. These are important properties for us because it means our shoes can withstand a lot of wear and that they won’t gain weight when running through water.
An example of post-consumer waste that is widely used is PET bottles. Using recycled PET polyester is an efficient way to reduce the use of virgin material. However, the PET bottle industry made a plea to the textile industry to stop using "their" bottles. The reason is that when recycling PET bottles to new drinking bottles it can be recycled numerous times, but when recycling PET bottles to textile fibers, the loop normally ends there. The material gets trapped in a one-way street.
The technologies to recycle polyester clothes and shoes are not scaled up enough to enable a circular loop. As long as this is the case, the reliance on the single-use plastic industry and on petroleum will remain high.
Icebug have started the journey to replace PET bottles with other more sustainable fiber sources for recycled fabrics (like nylon, see below). And of course, we continue to use recycled polyester from production waste or used textile products, which is still a very good thing.
A lesson learned is that what is good today is not necessarily a good thing tomorrow – sustainability is about being agile.
Nylon from textile production and fishing nets
Nylon, both virgin and recycled, is a strong yarn and we use increasingly more recycled nylon. When the recycled nylon comes from fishing nets it gives a double effect by both saving material and resources while cleaning our oceans of waste.
Cordura is a well-known supplier that is used for gear such as backpacks, workwear, and durable shoes. Icebug uses Cordura® RE/COR™ for some uppers - being 100% Nylon 6 yarn recycled from Cordura®'s production. https://cordura.com/sustainability
The Icebug shoes have heel and toe reinforcements containing recycled nylon from used fishing nets by the company Milspeed. The Milspeed materials contain 60% recycled plastic of which 11-12% is recycled nylon from fishing nets.