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Kiwi eco shoe business Orba offers 'antidote to consumerist Back Friday'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

As Kiwis rushed to spend a record $248 million in hyped Black Friday sales, sustainable Wellington shoe business Orba is instead marking U.N World Soil Day as a nod to environmental priorities and slow, conscious consumerism.

Nearly every aspect of Orba shoes are made from plant-based or biodegradable ingredients - coming from the soil and returning to the soil at the end of its lifespan - making World Soil Day marked on December 5 as particularly apt, says Sustainability Manager Gillian Boucher.

"Orba shoes are made of non-toxic, plant-based materials, and are designed to biodegrade. This means that when they come to the end of their life, they don’t damage the soil they end up in, unlike synthetic and plastic materials that release toxins into the ground as they break down - a process that can take up to hundreds of years," Gillian says.

"Orba’s approach to sustainability promotes soil health, from the beginning to the end. That’s why we’re proud to support World Soil Day".

Black Friday, a US-based tradition where sales are held on the first Friday after Thanksgiving, has been widely adopted in New Zealand and Australian retail sectors, despite the seeming irrelevance. It has overtaken Boxing Day as the biggest retail sale event of the year, with a seven percent increase in spending in 2021 compared with last year, and research showing over 60 percent of Kiwis had planned to take advantage of the sales.

Gillian says the shoe industry is an example of products being made with little thought about where they will end up at the end of their lifespan.

"We are fighting back against the pollution caused by the 20 billion shoes produced globally every year and destined for landfill," she says.

This year, the sustainability-focused business launched the world-first Orba Ghost - a stylish street sneaker made almost entirely of natural materials and designed to biodegrade.

The revolutionary result of a design process melding inspiration, aesthetics, technical excellence, ethics and environmentalism, almost every aspect of Orba shoes, from sole and upper to eyelets, stitching and lace-ends, is made from natural, biodegradable materials, with 94 percent of it plant-based, including flax, kenaf (similar to hemp) and ramie (similar to nettle).

The company has developed a unique, bespoke bio-rubber sole made of natural rubber, rice husk ash and coconut oil, and insoles of cork, coconut husk and natural rubber - a formulation that is not only a global first, but is designed to eliminate the problem of disposed shoes in landfill taking from 40 to 1000 years to break down.

"Orba’s materials were chosen with thought about the pesticide and irrigation impacts that crop farming can have on local communities," Gillian says.

"We’ve chosen some of the most highly renewable plant-based materials in the world. These have very low environmental impacts during farming and cultivation and they don’t degrade our soils".

Orba is celebrating United Nations World Soil Day with a five-day sale, offering 20 percent off, in place of having sat out the commercialised Black Friday spree on November 26th.

For more information visit Find out more about U.N. WORLD SOIL DAY (December 5).

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