The company is increasingly taking a lifecycle approach and test bedding product innovation through lightweighting and the use of bio-based alternatives for certain materials.

According to Alexis Olans, senior global programme manager for adidas’ Better Place programme, the company is using less fabric in its products – not only to create less waste, but to reduce the amount of embodied energy and water used in the manufacturing process.

Bio-based alternatives are also being explored for certain fabrics, offering the chance to engineer in better performance and functionality from the outset.

“When we use bio-based plastics that come from non food-based crops, those plastics depending on how they are engineered could perform better in fact than our existing suite of plastics,” Olans told edie.

“There is a high level of technical innovation out there, but there are only few companies able to offer this level of innovation … so the only challenge we face is that it maybe takes longer to develop a certain innovation and bring it to market.”

One example of how adidas’ is rethinking its footprint around footwear is its Element Soul and Element Voyager running shoe lines.

Both models are based on a minimalist approach – using only what is essential to create a sustainable product capable of meeting an athlete’s performance needs.

The shoes themselves weigh less than 200 grams, feature only water-based adhesives and no sock liner.

Since the inputs to the shoe are so reduced, there is an estimated 50% waste saving when compared to a traditional running shoe, with less embodied water and energy.

The Element Soul incorporates recycled polyester and soybean-based foams, a one-piece injection mid-sole and high pattern efficiency. The Element Voyager goes one step further, according to Olans.

“The Voyager has a 95% pattern efficiency – that’s the percentage of original fabric used that ends up in the final shoe, so it results in hardly waste,” she explained.

“It is also dematerialised in the sense that there is a 60% reduction in the number of parts overall, compared to an average shoe. It also features greater use of recycled materials.”

The company is planning to launch an apparel line later in the year featuring low fabric waste as a complement to the Element shoes.

Read the full interview with Alexis Olans on how adidas is creating more sustainable footwear and apparel here

Maxine Perella

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