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SustonAKUSustainable shoes are no longer only a matter of luxury handcraftmanship:
shoe factories can do the same, should they are willing to.
From Northern Italy, AKU prove that, by launching their second generation
of low enviromental and social impact footwear in five years.

Are you still in the opinion this cannot be done? Take a look at what we wrote about herebelow.

 

 

 

As already for those who produce jeans and t-shirts, even mountain shoe and outdoor shoe manufacturers have been questioning over the years on how to gradually get to a fully "no oil" product.

Aku, that between Veneto and Romania have been producing outdoor and mountain shoes for many years1after deep investigating on the pieces shaping up the anatomy of an AKU shoe 2, for some time now decided to start their path to product sustainability beginning from leather, not forgetting their own production and management processes (reduction of water and energy consumption, for starters) indeed.

Today, after consolidating their collaboration with Dani Group3, an Italian group that produce leather for shoes and furniture, Aku manufacture and sell shoes made in large numbers, which nevertheless have come to a low environmental and social impact.

Introduced in 2016, the range of sustainable shoes suitable for mountain hiking but also viable in the city to replace the classic leather sneakers is called Aku Plus4  and is divided into two product lines.

akubellamont2plus03Bellamont Plus II (credits:Aku)The line of "mountain inspired" shoes called Bellamont Plus and designed to be used also in the city in autumn, winter and spring, is in fact complemented by the shoes of the La Val line, more suitable for mountain trails https://www.aku.it/prodotti/catalogo/multiterrain/la-val-low-plus.html#tabs-3 

Both the Bellamont Plus, which have reached the second generation, https://www.aku.it/prodotti/catalogo/mountain-inspired/bellamont-ii-plus-095-marrone-scuro.html, and the Laval Plus shoes are shoes in which, not only the lining and the upper, but also the sole and other parts of the shoe are made of low-impact materials.
Furthermore, in Aku they are committed to tracking down all the materials and containing most of the supplies and production in Europe, between Montebelluna and Romaniaia
5.akulavalplusLa Val Plus (credits: AKU)
Even these industrially manufactured shoes
6 are therefore already a concrete and possible low-impact choice, to walk every day in the city and for weekend excursions: let's get to know them a little better.


What low impact Aku Plus shoes are made of?

Let's start with the leather of the upper and inner lining.
This is because Aku rely on an Italian supplier: with Dani Sustainable Leather, an innovative leather free from chrome-based manufacturing
7, the Dani Group delivers the main ingredient of the upper of the AKU Plus shoes to the production lines of Aku.

The other parts of the shoe come from other suppliers, 99% European, as Aku state.

Fabrics that also use recycled yarn are used for the lining of Bellamont Plus, while parts that contain recycled materials come from the natural rubber industry, such as the tread of the VIBRAM®8 for the sole and in double density microporous EVA recycled for the midsole.

The insole of the shoe is instead made in coconut / latex and bamboo, while the laces are in natural cotton
9. And, again, the metal eyelets made by hand in Italy and Romania, where AKU have part of their production facilities.


Use and duration, a matter of care and maintenance

In Aku they have thought of a sort of very useful and valuable use book for the care and maintenance of shoes: it can be consulted on Issu.
The publication contains useful and valuable rules to follow to increase the useful life of the shoe but also the goodness of the fit. And he says that, in many cases, the shoes can also be repaired and resolved by Aku herself.

Price

Like many products on the road to sustainability, the price is only a little higher than the non-eco versions (less than 10%): the game is thus always worthwile.For example, we have found prices on the web ranging from 100 to 140 euros.

Recycling Aku Plus

The very fact of being manufactured with low impact and recyclable materials, certainly makes the shoes of the Aku Plus line at the end of therr useful life cycle less difficult to dispose of.
Before getting rid of them, however, Aku suggest it is better to think of possible creative reuse of the shoe, such as, for example, using them for small tasks that are not particularly demanding, such as some work in the garage or, for those lucky enough to have it, in the garden.

On the path to sustainability

The control and involvement of suppliers serves to maintain high product and process quality but, as also seen in other cases here on Sustainable Product, it is the indispensable starting point for performing LCA analysis, for example, and reaching the definition of 'environmental footprint of shoes and business; in the first instance, an all-European supply chain with suppliers and production plants in Italy and Romania certainly contribute to reducing CO2 emissions related to transports10.

The leather of the shoes has been worked never using chrome and these parts come from a company, Dani, which make their commitment publicly visible: such a thing means that the shoe of the Plus line also incorporates the sustainability that Dani puts in its leathers, or if you prefer, that the waters indispensable in the tanning cycle have been polluted much less than the standard; and that the emissions are compensated, and this is verifiable. That's to say, less environmental costs and less social costs for waste disposal and public health.

And, while the boxes of the single pair of shoes are already recyclable, being made of cardboard and paper, in Aku are working to reduce the environmental impact of the preparation phases of pallets for shipping and to improve energy efficiency of machines in the production line11.

Final impressions

The shoes of the Aku Plus line are a real example of what a work group that is seriously committed to sustainability can do today.
The other part of the story is up to the citizens: after informing, we schould be trying and adopting these new low-impact products, especially when they speak not only to the environment, but also to our health and well-being. Honestly, this doesn't seem so small to me.


Notes and sources (from the originale italian text)

1 For over 30 years, Aku has been part of the so-called "boot and sports shoe district" which has its own epicenter where the company has its headquarters, in Montebelluna in Veneto, Northern Italy.

2https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=aku+plus

3 The Dani Group is one of the most important Italian tanning business operators. It is also a company that is trying to impose its own sustainable style in this difficult industry http://www.gruppodani.com/ e http://www.zeroimpactleather.com/
http://www.zeroimpactleather.com/it/partners/aku-2
http://www.gruppodani.com/it/
dani-news/news/dani-aku-
una-partnership-a-obiettivo-zero

4 The Aku Plus line was composed in 2016 of the Alpina and Bellamont models http://www.zeroimpactleather.com/it/
rassegna-stampa/
aku-plus-la-linea-di-calzature-che-pensa-al-futuro

5 From source Aku: "Designing, developing, producing in Europe allows direct control over production sources and a shorter supply chain, using over 90% of raw materials and components of local origin, 100% traceable. This means a reduction in the environmental impact caused by the transport of raw materials and finished product. ”

6 Read on MadeinGaia, 
http://madeingaia.it/index.php/prodotti-sostenibili/per-le-persone/vestiamoci/2-italia-veneto-le-scarpe-equo-logiche-di-ragioniamo-con-i-piedi

7 See the website dedicated to the Zero Impact project http://www.zeroimpactleather.com/en/

  “Zero Impact leathers are chrome and heavy metal free and are aligned with the ISO 15987 standard which establishes the maximum permitted amount of heavy metal content in 0.1%. All processing, hair removal, tanning and retanning and finishing phases are carried out with innovative products "
While this practice reduces Co2 emissions by 5%, while the rest are offset through certified and controlled reforestation: see http://www.zeroimpactleather.com/en/compensation
See also, in italian, on this last point http://www.azzeroco2.it/dani-e-aku-una-partnership-a-zero-emissioni

8 “Vibram Eco Step - The ECO STEP tread of BELLAMONT PLUS first series is made by Vibram® using recycled rubber. The midsole is produced in Italy by AKU in collaboration with a specialized supplier, by regenerating waste from the production of pressed EVA, in a percentage higher than 30% in the total compound.” http://www.aku.it/azienda/agire-responsabile.html

9 Some tech data from Bellamont Plus 2

UPPER: CHROME FREE NUBUCK 2.0 MM

UPPER PROTECTION: LIBA®SMART PU

LINING DESCRIPTION: ZERO IMPACT® FULL GRAIN LEATHER

OUTSOLE: VIBRAM® PREDATOR II

MIDSOLE: DOUBLE DENSITY DIE CUT EVA, RECYCLED

LASTING BOARD (STIFFNESS): 1.5 MM NYLON + DIE CUT EVA (EXTRA FLEXIBLE)

FOOTBED: COCO/LATEX/BAMBOO

WEIGHT (GR. ½ PAIR): 490[1] - 470[2] [2.1]

SIZE RANGE (UK ): 3 - 13

- See more at: https://www.aku.it/en/product/catalogo_en/mountain-inspired/bellamont-ii-plus-095-dark-brown_en.html#tabs-3

10 Da fonte Aku, cit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSl6itUvhSQ via outdoortest.it
http://freizeitalpin.com/42588/aku-praesentiert-weitere-schuhmodelle-aus-chromfreiem-leder-ispo-2016/

11 E ancora da fonte Aku, http://www.aku.it/azienda/agire-responsabile.html

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