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KEEN-parison: Shoes Made With Recycled Materials

November 15, 2021, marks the 25th annual National Recycling Day, or America Recycles Day. It’s a day devoted to educating Americans about the benefits of recycling with recycling-related celebrations happening all across the country. Here at KEEN, we’ve been focusing on creating products using recycled materials for quite some time. In fact, we like to say that our shoes are Consciously Created. This blog post explains what we mean by that and what steps we’re taking to lighten our collective footprint.

Check out the handy chart below to see which recycled materials we’re using in our boots, shoes, and sandals.

More Circular Shoes Recycled P.E.T. plastic Upcycled agricultural waste 50% recycled wool
Astoria West X
Eldon X
Elle X
Elsa Lite Felt X
Elsa V X
Greta X
Howser X
Mosey X
Revel X
Targhee High Lace X
Terradora Wintry X

KEEN Astoria West sandals with recycled plastic webbing
Women's Astoria West sandals with recycled P.E.T. webbing

Recycled P.E.T. Plastic

With 35 billion plastic bottles thrown away each year, landfills are overflowing, the oceans are in danger, and the planet is heating up. Using recycled P.E.T. plastic derived from bottles in our products is a step toward creating a circular economy, where products are endlessly recycled, repurposed, and reused.

What is it?
Most plastic bottles are made of P.E.T. (polyethylene terephthalate). To make recycled P.E.T. plastic, the bottles are collected, sorted, and chopped into flakes. Then the flakes are melted down to make chips, which are melted to make plastic fiber, which is spun into yarn and used to make webbing and fabrics.

Why use it?
Using recycled plastic textiles doesn’t just keep old soda bottles out of landfills. When we use recycled material, we’re not using any new petroleum, which also means fewer greenhouse gases and a savings on water and energy.

Which KEEN shoes are made with recycled P.E.T.?
KEEN makes a variety of shoes using recycled P.E.T. plastic, from casual styles like the Elle sandal, which has a recycled P.E.T. stretch gore upper, to the UNEEK SNK sneaker, which has a knit upper made of 100% recycled plastic. For hiking and outdoor adventuring in warm weather, the Astoria West and CNX II sandals are sporty closed-toe hybrid sandals that use recycled P.E.T. in their bungee cords, webbing, and lace locks. To stay cozy and comfy when the weather turns cool, we recommend the Howser family, which contains recycled P.E.T. in some styles. And if winter is your favorite time to get outside, the Revel IV winter boot uses KEEN.WARM recycled P.E.T. insulation.

KEEN Eldon sneakers made with upcycled agricultural waste
Men's Eldon sneakers with a plant-based sole

Upcycled Agricultural Waste

Did you know that landfills are the third-largest source of human-caused methane emissions? Keeping as much garbage out of landfills as we can is an important way to reduce greenhouse gases. KEEN launched our Harvest collection 15 years ago using industrial waste from the rice industry. Since then, we’ve upcycled denim, automobile airbags, and coffee sacks. Our most recent effort is the creation of our first-ever plant-based PU sole.

What is it?
KEEN’s plant-based PU sole was created using waste from agricultural processes — left over husks, leaves, and stems. This bio-based material replaces 51% of the petrochemicals in the outsole and 35% in the midsole.

Why use it?
In the U.S., 97% of all solid waste is generated by agricultural and industrial processes. Currently, only 2% of it is being recycled. By replacing petrochemicals with plant-based materials made from industrial agricultural waste, we’re taking another step toward a lighter footprint. And the new PU sole has the same feel, performance, and durability as conventional soles made with petrochemicals.

Which KEEN shoes are made with upcycled agricultural waste?
Sneakers with classic good looks, the women's Elsa V and Elsa Harvest sneakers, and men's Eldon sneakers, are made with a plant-based sole.

KEEN Mosey shoes with 50% recycled wool
Mosey Chukka with a 50% recycled wool upper

50% Recycled Wool

You might think that because wool is a natural fiber, it’s good for the environment. But producing wool requires resources, including land for the sheep to graze, water to clean the wool that’s shorn, chemicals to treat it, and dyes to color it. Using recycled wool reduces the amount of virgin wool that needs to be produced and makes an already durable natural material last longer.

What is it?
Reclaimed wool fibers and scraps are collected, broken down, and mixed in to create new fabric that is 50% recycled wool.

Why use it?
Methane released by sheep is one of wool’s biggest environmental impacts. Reusing wool helps reduce CO2 emissions. And because it’s a natural material and not a petroleum-based one, it helps bring us one step toward a circular economy.

Which KEEN shoes are made with 50% recycled wool?
The women’s Elsa Lite Felt sneaker is perfect for browsing the farmer’s market or seeing the sights on a spring vacation. Durable and comfortable wool-blend felt makes the Mosey chukka sneaker a good choice for heading back to the office and weekends in the city.

woman at garden shop in recycled wool KEEN shoes

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