FAIRLY TRADED NATURAL RUBBER FOR ETHLETIC SHOE SOLES
What is natural rubber?
If you want to narrate the history of commercially used natural rubber, then you will have to go back to 1875, where, according to a legend, thousands of seminals of a natural rubber were bootleged in a stuffed crocodile from Brazil. Since then, rubber is cultivated all around the equator in the whole world. There are a lot of plants which exclude juices similar to rubber – for example the Brazil „primeeval natural rubber“. Ethletic is using the natural resource “Hevea Brasialiensis” from its crust latex milk (extracted by hand). This is then used for both our shoe soles and as glue.
There are two different natural rubbers – the solid rubber (“gum“) and the fluid latex milk (“latex“). Solid rubber is formed by mixing latex milk with acid (ammoniac). Thus, latex juice is thickening (such as jogurt in milk). Water is screwed out from this mass and the dehydrated sheets in smoking chambers dryed to rubber mats and made durable. Ethletic soles are then made out of this solid natural substance.
Latex milk, which is directly extracted from bark of a tree, is processed in fluid state. Ethletic uses latex milk as glue. The procedure of combining all components with each other is called vulcanisation. It was discovered in 1839 by US chemist Charles Goodyear. After already 21 years, the first shoe soles of natural rubber went into production. 1917 was the birth hour of the legendary sneakers, which US athlete Chuck Tylor wore for the first time in 1918 when playing basketball.
FSC certified rubber from Sri Lanka
It is important for us not only to use ecological materials, but also that they are cultivated with responsibility and that they are socially farmed. The natural rubber for our Ethletic products are from Sri Lanka. It is the first place in the world with FSC certified rubber plantations.
“FSC“ stands for “Forest Stewardship Council“ and is an international certification system for forestry. Worldwide valid principles are guaranteeing that products of wood and paper with the FSC seal are steming from responsibly farmed forests. These principles are defined in an international standard. The FSC standard stipulates that ecological functions of a forest have to survive. In addition, it secures threatened animal- and plant forms from extinction and secures the rights of the inhabitants and employees. Our natural rubber plantations in Sri Lanka are moreover afforested every year from the beginning.
What many people do not know is the fact that rubber tree plantations are contributing to the depletion of carbon dioxide off our environment. According to Indian researchers, one hectare of rubber tree plantations are absorbing seven times more carbon dioxide as a hectare of rainforest.
Furthermore, natural rubber is bio-degradable. This contributs to the relief of environment and prevents the accumulation of “plastic carpets“ on our oceans.
Who picks this succulent natural resource?
We would really like to get to know every person in our supply chain if this would be feasable. However, due to temporal and organisational reasons this is not possible. But what we love and do are regular visits to smallholders and their plantations, from which we get our natural resources. It is important for us to stay in contact with them and plan our common future on an equal footing and to share their worries and pleasures. We also put emphasise on visits of our friends on our trips, which then can locally have a look at our work and report their impressions at home.
For example, Berlin architect and artist Van Bo accompanied us to Sri Lanka as part of his Crowdfunding project “Karma Chakhs“ and afterwards reported his „crowd“ about his impressions.
Why, which certificates?
As far as cultivation of agriculture areas and the cultivation of raw materials is concerned, there are miscellaneous seals, which control the compliance of the international standards to protect the trust of the consumer.
To keep track of the “seal jungle“, we have decided us for the particular organisation (for the respective natural resource), which fitted us the best for the task. For the raw material natural rubber we are relying on the environmental association FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which controls on annual audits the compliance of defined ecological and social standards with its experts.
Furthermore, for every regular order, we have commited ourselves to the accomplishment of additional contributions for social project facilitations of plantation workers. We are achieving this by paying them an additional amount of €0.50 per reaped rubber. Through this money, the community is able to allow small-scale projects such as the construction of a small bridge or the establishment of a small consumer shop.