WYSO is a new generation of school shoe. Organic. Recycled. Free from harmful chemicals. Striving towards biodegradability. It’s the future of sustainable schoolwear.
When setting out on this journey we wanted to make a change, to challenge perceptions of products and the way we do things. As a generation we have a responsibility to the environment and to make a positive difference in the world . We realise that we are far from perfect – in fact – our journey to be better has just begun.
Human Rights • Labour Practices • The Environment • Fair Competition (respecting laws and good business practice) • Consumer safety (no harmful chemicals etc. in product)
80% of climate impact, and 100% of water and toxicity impacts, occur during the production process so we took it upon ourselves to make sure that our practices are the best out there. By setting out on this journey with as small a footprint as possible is the first step we are making in the right direction.When you consider traditional school shoe uppers, if they are leather, they are generally Chrome-tanned. This means that heavy metals have been used in the leather tanning process which begs the question: Do you really want to expose your Children’s feet to heavy-metals?
The other major problem with leather tanneries is the waste water by-product from this heavy-metal tanning process. If tanneries are not treating their effluent water properly it just ends up in our water system, polluting our rivers and waterways with heavy metals.
Traditional school shoe uppers are usually a suede split covered in a plastic coating that is very cleverly advertised as “scuff resistant leather ”. The simple truth behind this claim is that the coating hides imperfections in the suede which is indicative of concealing the use of cheaper grade suede to make these shoes. Unfortunately this is done with no consideration of the environmental impact – it is purely a commercial decision.
You might say: “well, just don’t use leather then” - unfortunately it is not that simple.
There are many alternatives out there, however, most viable options are made using only petroleum based products which brings with it several major issues. The petroleum industry is one of the worst polluters in the world and it was an easy decision for us to find a way to reduce our impact on the environment.
We ended up researching, exploring and testing many different alternatives and before settling on a material we had to be sure that the product was not only a better alternative, but could also withstand the active lifestyle of children on a playground. All alternatives considered, we finally settled on a Bioveg material. Our product is USDA certified, Bio Based as well as PETA-approved.
Bioveg is a range of products where the three key ingredients: natural fibres, recycled polyester backing and Biopolyols PU, are combined into one single material.
What attracted our attention the most was that it was a Biopolyols PU fabric derived from renewable sources and no longer hydrocarbons. The Bioveg upper material, most importantly, is derived from a type of corn called Yellow Dent which, when harvested, the oil and starch produced is reworked into a polyol base. Through polymerization we are then able to obtain our upper material.
By applying the new Biopolyols PU to the recycled polyester backing and natural fibres, the combination has helped create a product that has a far less significant impact on the environment.
As we progressed on our journey to create a product that just had to be more sustainable we then looked at our shoe laces. Most school shoes use Polyester laces with plastic tips. Polyester is a synthetic petroleum-based fibre indicative of a carbon-intensive non-renewable resource. The production of polyester uses harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, and if emitted to water and air untreated, can cause significant environmental damage.
It goes without saying that we wanted a better alternative and after much research we settled on a supplier that could provide BCI (Better Cotton Initiative – www.bettercotton.org) sourced Cotton laces with Biodegradable Cellulose Acetate tips.
All of our products are REACH compliant and we are one of the only factories in South Africa that is using water-based solvents in the production of our shoes. REACH is a European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals.