Switzerland-based running brand On (opens in new tab) this week released a shoe with a foam midsole made from carbon carbon emissions. Yep, not one that is made using a process that merely reduces emissions, but one that has a central component constructed from a substance that would otherwise end up as greenhouse gasses.
The new shoes will incorporate a new EVA foam called CleanCloud (opens in new tab), and the technology behind it has been developed in co-operation with LanzaTech (opens in new tab) and Borealis (opens in new tab). Caspar Coppetti, co-founder and executive co-chairman of On says: It’s a win-win situation: we are capturing emissions before they pollute our atmosphere and are at the same time moving away from fossil-based materials.”
According to the On website (opens in new tab), the process involves intercepting carbon emissions before they escape into the atmosphere, then fermenting the carbon monoxide into liquid ethanol, before dehydrating it (when it becomes ethylene) and then polymerizing it into EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), used as foam in the shoes.
Sound complicated? Well that’s because it is, and the people behind it have been working on this process since 2018.
“It has been emotional – the most intense project I ever worked on,” says Nils Altrogge, On’s Head of Technology Innovation. “There were times when I had tears in my eyes, I was so frustrated,” he admits. “But we never stopped believing we could find solutions. The next day, I would wake up, everything would look better, and we’d go again.”
But this week, Altogge finally was able to reveal the first shoe to include the revolutionary material, the Cloudprime, a limited number of which were released on 15 September.
“Together with our partners we’re pioneering technology to move away from fossil fuel resources,” Altogge explained. “We’ve finished the proof of concept by making a handful of pairs on a pilot scale to show the world that it is possible to make materials and shoes from carbon emissions.”
“With CleanCloud, we’ve discovered the ability to create a high-performance EVA foam that can be used across industries,” Altogge continued. “This innovation has the potential to impact the fashion and footwear space as well as broader applications, considering the materials in every mattress, in cars and airplane seats, packaging, and more. It is a solution that can touch many different industries.”