How do you like your coffee? Black? With milk? Or perhaps on your feet? A Finnish footwear firm has raised over $US800,000 ($1.1 million) to produce shoes partly made from used coffee grounds.
- Some pairs of Rens sneakers contain about 300 grams of coffee waste
- The shoes are made in Vietnam, one of the world’s largest coffee producers
- Rens says it will offset all emissions from packaging to shipping
Helsinki-based footwear firm Rens says it has created a waterproof sneaker made from coffee waste and recycled plastic bottles.
It is an attempt to lessen the environmental impact of used coffee grounds, which — when they break down in landfill sites — release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming.
An estimated 6 million tonnes of used coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year.
“When we started, we actually realised that only 5 per cent of the coffee waste in the world actually got recycled,” says Rens co-founder and CEO Jesse Tran.
“And coffee waste is actually a bio-waste, but it actually produces a lot of methane, which is, like, 32 times more potent than CO2 greenhouse gas. So, what we do here is that we just extend the life cycle.”
Rens says a pair of its first-generation “Original” shoes contains about 300 grams of coffee waste, the equivalent of 21 cups of java.
The waste is processed and then combined with plastic pellets from recycled bottles to make a polyester yarn for the upper part of the sneaker.
The shoe’s outsole is made from natural rubber.
Rens says its coffee waste is sourced from major convenience chains in Asia.
The shoes are made at a factory in Vietnam, one of the world’s largest coffee producers.
“After you bought it and throw it away, we actually took it, and mix it with recycled plastic pellets made from used water bottles,” explains Tran.
“And so, we created something called coffee polyester yarn. So, it is actually the majority of the upper part of our shoes is made from those coffee polyester yarn.”
After coming up with the idea in July, 2017, the company’s co-founders launched an online fundraising campaign on website Kickstarter in June, 2019.
It hit its goal within 24 hours and raised over $550,000 from more than 5,000 backers.
A follow-up campaign this August raised over $350,000 to produce a second-generation version of the sneakers, named “Nomad”, with laces also made from coffee waste and recycled plastic.
“In the market, sustainable products was really popular. What we see as a problem is, like, those products [are] just not made for the young people,” says co-founder and CTO Son Chu.
“The way that they are selling the products is, like: ‘Hey, use us or else the planet is going to die.’ We don’t like that approach.
“We want to be a brand where we make sustainable products, but they are cool, they have really cool functions, people can actually use them.”
The company says while its sneakers are sustainable and partly made from recycled materials, there are associated environmental impacts, such as shipping the finished products.
Rens says it will offset all climate emissions from production, packaging, distribution and shipping to make its new “Nomad” coffee sneakers carbon-neutral.
For now, sustainability comes at a high price — a pair of the company’s latest footwear is listed for $US199 ($275) — with a pre-order price of $US109.
The early success of its coffee sneakers prompted the firm to plan other clothing, becoming a sustainable sportswear brand in its own right.
“We also will add, extend to other apparels. And so, whatever product we do, we will apply the same formula, which is from waste-based material. It can be coffee waste again, or it can be something else,” says Tran.
That means coffee T-shirts or java jumpers might one day be headed to a clothing store near you.