New Balance Set the green leaf standard With the 574
New Balance’s biggest sneaker is set to be their largest agent of change once again, as the classic 574 begins to demonstrate a cleaner, greener future for footwear. Launching the green leaf standard is the 574 Core, which proves that minimal intervention with the environment can be achieved by practising the same ethos with the shoes. It’s time to learn how NB are, in their own words, being the ‘greenest grey has ever been’.
Green to the Core
NB have set stringent targets to qualify products under their green leaf standard en masse. This means shoe uppers are made from at least 50 per cent environmentally preferred materials (EPMs), plus the use of responsibly sourced leather through the Leather Working Group. Soles incorporate at least five per cent recycled content or three per cent bio-based foam – these numbers add up for a model like the 574, which is produced in the millions!
Tom Henshaw, global marketing director for Lifestyle, says, ‘The intention with green leaf was always to affect change at scale. We didn’t want to bring out our most eco-friendly product in a niche, limited capsule collection, where actual impact would be minimal. By integrating our green leaf standard in to some of our highest volume models… the change and impact is going to be tangible across our supply chain.’
To achieve this, the 574 has been remade from the ground up – though at first sight it might not seem obvious. Enter Alex Carlson, product sustainability manager at NB, who has studied the shoe at a granular level to integrate EPMs into its construction.
‘Environmentally preferred materials demonstrate a reduction of impact on the environment and human health, while still maintaining the physical performance of their conventional alternatives.’
This includes established practices such as turning used plastic bottles into recycled polyester, and innovative methods involving using sugarcane waste as a key ingredient in producing EVA foam, all without compromising longevity.
‘It’s very important to uphold the physical standards of the EPMs because a material can hardly be considered preferred if it’s not durable,’ says Carlson.
The Future of green leaf
The green leaf standard isn’t just a temporary play that comes and goes with the seasons. Cynthia Maletz, director of Product Creation Platforms at NB, explains, ‘Sustainability is not an end-point or a destination, it’s a journey of continual improvement. A big part of our job is making sure we are making that improvement in an aligned way across the entire organisation by focusing on lessening the impact of our most used materials.’
In turn, NB have set ambitious yet attainable goals over the next few years to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent within the decade. In addition to their new production methods for the 574, they will incorporate higher percentage EPMs across their offerings. They’ve also joined the Leather Working Group, an ever-growing consortium of over 1000 companies striving to achieve better transparency and reduced impact of leather manufacturing. And moving forward, NB’s green leaf standard products will be marked by a hangtag to denote their eco status, which will expand into more of the range.
To learn more about the green leaf standard, head over to New Balance.