World-first biodegradable sneaker by Kiwi company Orba

Kiwi eco-footwear company, Orba, do things differently. The innovative start-up created a sneaker specifically designed to biodegrade. 

The Orba Ghost sneaker is sustainably mass-produced and made almost entirely from natural materials.

Orba chooses materials that have eco-labels to support ethical sourcing and manufacturing. Each material, from the natural plant-based rubber sole to the embroidered cotton eyelets and cellulose tips on organic cotton shoelaces, was chosen for its unique properties and environmental impact, creating a shoe that looks good and keeps the planet looking good too.

Every year over 20 billion shoes that use synthetics are produced by the global fashion industry, with little regard for the sustainability of the materials sourced, the wellbeing of the people involved or how these products will impact the environment after disposal. Traditionally manufactured shoes contain materials and glues that do not biodegrade.

Orba convey a vision of cyclability and sustainability with a goal to cover every step and process, from the farms that produce their raw materials, to the factories that weave the canvases and assemble the shoes, and the logistics that bring the shoes to consumers. Orba shoes are designed to biodegrade in a microbial, fungi-rich environment. Taking full responsibility for the end-of-life of their product, the company place shoes returned at the end of their life in the right environment for efficient biodegradation.

As a Certified B Corporation, Orba minimise manufacturing and disposal impacts and maximise sustainability without compromising comfort and style. Businesses must meet the highest social, environmental, transparency and accountability standards to gain the accreditation, with only 82 businesses in New Zealand accredited to date. The company strive to have a fully transparent and sustainable supply chain.

In 2021, Orba captured both international and national acclaim, winning two awards for sustainability. The Ghost sneaker took out the Sustainability category at the Global Footwear Awards and the Sustainable Product Design category at the Design Institute of NZ Best Design Awards. The Global Footwear Awards recognise the world's most exceptional footwear designs, with the Sustainability category evaluating creativity, design and innovation. It is judged by 15 industry professionals from brands and publications like Vogue, Adidas, Vera Wang, Hugo Boss, Prada, GQ, and the MIT Institute of Design.

The award-winning design is breathable, light, and durable. Made in Indonesia, the sneaker is naturally antimicrobial, moisture-wicking and thermo-regulating in an urban silhouette.

Sustainability comes in many forms, and Orba are in the process of measuring their performance in terms of CO2 emissions, water use and water pollution during the making of the shoes. At this stage, the company measures themselves using existing data for each main material but are working toward building their own data. Measuring exactly what occurs in their processes will allow Orba to further improve and maintain the low carbon footprint of the Orba Ghost sneaker compared to standard shoe materials.