Have you ever checked what your shoes are made of? Try to look at the shock-absorbing sole, is it made of a soft foam-like material? Can you read ‘BLOOM‘ printed on it? If you see it, then buying those shoes you contributed to return the equivalent of up to 225 bottles of filtered water into the environment, and to avoid up to 25 balloons of CO2 entering the atmosphere. If not, the next time you will buy a pair of sneakers, this is something else you may want to check!
We have already seen in a previous article how algae can be extremely useful to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and how some species can be used as raw material to obtain supplements for human consumption in ‘nutraceuticals’, to feed animals and to produce other goods like cosmetics and biofuels. But it is all a matter of ecological balance. Because the uncontrolled overgrowth of algae, often related to nutrient pollution affecting lakes, rivers, coastal water and bays, has negative environmental effects instead. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus can trigger the overproduction of algae, also known as ‘algal blooms‘, which consume oxygen in the water and make aquatic life struggle or disappear.
BLOOM, an Algix brand founded in 2015 and based in Meridian MS, tries to mitigate the negative effects of such overproduction by using algae harvested from polluted water to produce something valuable for the footwear industry: flexible foams. In their words, “we help keep natural ecologies in balance, and in return, we get an incredible renewable resource that helps us offset the use of petroleum in traditional footwear foams”.
The process they designed is the following. First polluted water is pumped into a harvester system through a filtration device that keeps wildlife safe. An eco-safe coagulant is then added to the water, so that algae can form larger masses, which are skimmed off into a collection tank. It is at this point that filtered clean water is released back into the environment. And while this happens, the algae mass is delivered to a facility, where it is dewatered and dried. The last steps are to ground it to a fine powered and compound it into plastic composite pellets, ready to be expanded into a flexible foam with additional foaming ingredients.
Algae have intrinsic thermoplastic qualities, which is the key of BLOOM’s foam and makes it meet, or even exceed, performance characteristics of conventional closed-cell flexible foam. Bloom offers 6 standard foam formulas and it is also able to produce custom ones to satisfy footwear manufacturers’ requirements.
The components produced by the Mississippi-based company include insoles, midsoles outsoles and footbeds, and production techniques comprise injection molding or compression molding of foam sheets. Algae foams can be used with existing tooling, but BLOOM can also open new molds if needed.
Brands already making use of BLOOM foam are for instance Sea Lion, Merrell, Loafs, Tropicfeel, H&M, Firewire Rob Machado, Quoc, Saola, Sole x United by Blue, Ecoalf, Adidas, Slater Designs, Surftech, Tentree, Altra and Vivobarefoot.
And it is not only about shoes. BLOOM foam can be used in any fashion products or accessories that require a shock-absorbing or soft layer. Among the others, it is a core component of Mobius backpacks, that are ‘packed with sustainably sourced materials’ (tentree, where the link will redirect you, is another amazing company we are going to feature on renewaves soon).
All in all, “BLOOM Algae Foams provide the performance your products are known for, without compromising your commitment to sustainability”. And transparency is so important to the company, that they commissioned a peer-review Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), in which all steps of algae foam production were analyzed and compared to those of traditional EVA. The LCA shows that in all impact categories that were considered (ecosystem, resources, cumulative energy demand, climate change and water) BLOOM products have from 20% to 41% fewer environmental impact.
According to the Algix brand, if only 5% of footwear brands used their products “enough water would be cleaned to provide for the basic needs of Africa and Asia’s population for 1 day and the annual carbon emissions of approximately 23,000 passenger vehicles could be offset”.
How to support
- Buy shoes powered by BLOOM algae foam, you can find all footwear brands that are currently partners of BLOOM here
- You can follow BLOOM on
- You can support BLOOM even by simply sharing this article on your favorite social networks. Spread the word!