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Icebug material sourcing – key to reduce impact

The shoe to the right (or below on mobile) is more sustainable.

The starting point is very simple: You can’t save the planet by buying Icebug shoes – or any other product for that matter. Production and consumption consume resources, so no consumer goods are totally environmentally friendly. However, when you do need a pair of shoes, to buy the more sustainable options will make a real difference.

Focus on what has most impact

If you do a lifecycle analysis of a pair of performance footwear, the highest negative impact on the environment by far is the production of the materials which make up the shoes as well as the production of the shoes themselves. Therefore, Icebug has been striving to reduce the number of different materials we use since 2015, and to switch them to less environmentally harmful alternatives – without compromising durability. This work is not evident or visible when looking at the shoes, but it matters to the planet and the people making our shoes.

In order to minimize the need for new production, a pair of Icebug shoes should only be bought if needed, and they should also be something that you can use for as long as possible. (Speed BUGrip on the picture, for example, we have had in our collection since 2006.)

Reduce number of materials used to be able to switch for better alternatives

We have reduced the number of different materials we use and switched to less environmentally harmful alternatives – without compromising durability. The big challenge is that many of the new materials has higher minimum quantities required for production. Unfortunately, the more environmentally harmful materials are, bizarrely enough, still the standard and for standard materials the minimum quantities are lower.

When sourcing new materials, we look for durable components that can withstand a lot of wear and tear so that our products can be used for as long as possible. The most sustainable way of consuming is to buy only what is needed, keep the product for several years, take care of it, repair it when needed, and to give it away for reuse when it’s no longer needed.

We also consider if the properties of the materials suit the intended purpose of the shoes. If it needs to withstand water, wind, and provide warmth, or if it should be cool for sunny and warm days. Comfort is of course also a significant factor. We try to find mono-materials, which means that different fibers are not mixed, to better prepare the product for future recycling possibilities.

We always keep our eyes open for innovations that offer both high quality and the lessening of our environmental impact. It is, of course, a challenge to balance great functionality and durability, yet having a sustainable material. We source and develop materials with our suppliers and cooperate with our colleagues in the outdoor industry to push the development of better materials.

''We keep our eyes open for innovations that offer both high quality and the lessening of our environmental impact''

Whenever it’s possible, we use recycled material. Sometimes it is possible to use 100% recycled content, but other times we can only use up to 20%. Limitations may be that recycled material can reduce the strength of a fiber or affect the bonding and wear-resistance of rubber.

Sourcing materials that use less chemicals and water

There are many chemicals involved in the various processes for making shoe materials and in the assembly of shoes. Icebug strives to use processes with as few harmful chemicals as possible, and source materials using more sustainable production methods.

For coloring, we often use a dyeing technique to add the pigment on fiber level, instead of weaving or stitching a white fabric, and then coloring it in a big color bath. This drastically reduces water-use and chemical-use as well as climate emissions.

In addition, we strive to have as many of the textile materials that we use either be bluesign® or Öko-tex certified, which means that the manufacturing is quality-assured from the perspective of resource and chemical use.

Our Leather is sourced from tanneries where the manufacturing is quality-assured by a third party organization with respect to sourcing, chemical use, and workers' conditions. We also buy Nubuck leather from Ecco that is tanned with the DriTan method, using less chemicals and water than a standard tanning procedure.

Icebug is a member of the RISE chemical group to get support in minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and secure that our suppliers don’t use any banned chemicals.

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We get regular updates about new regulations and discovering of new harmful chemicals. RISE also helps us with screenings of Icebug’s products each season to prioritize tests and make test schedules. Test shoes are picked from the production line, and external test institutes perform the chemical testing of our shoes before they are shipped to our warehouse.

In the example above of Speed BUGrip, the outer fabric is recycled polyester, which is bluesign® and solution dyed, the lining is also bluesign® and solution dyed, and the sock lining recycled polyester, which is bluesign® and solution dyed as well.

Use what has been producedOne last thing that is also very important: if we want to make as sustainable decisions as possible, we must always have a holistic perspective. The shoe to the left is from 2017. One of our basic principles for being sustainable is to have models that carry over from year to year. This is important to take into our account when it comes to our environmental impact for multiple reasons. One, a style produced one year could be sold the next year too. So, if we have a bad winter (in our case, that means one without slick conditions) and we don’t sell through our entire stock, those models can be sold the next year. That’s the most environmentally-conscious decision because the impact has already taken place. When the shoes are on the shelves – in store or at home – from a functional perspective, the shoe to the left is just as good shoes as the one on the right. To stop using it before it’s worn out would not be sustainable.

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