While the World Cup is drawing attention to Brazil from millions of soccer fans across the world, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur is working with Brazilian manufacturers to develop a new line of sustainable footwear.
Called Joya da Terra, the handmade sandals are made of natural and recycled materials and the production process is centered on zero waste, recycling and sustainable manufacturing.
"Not only do we have our unique handmade sandals (aka 'flip-flops'), but we also have 'our take on the TOMS shoe.' All these styles are unisex," said Cynthia Tello, the company’s founder.
What Tello is billing as 'the first sustainable shoe' (though Lyf Shoes' Aly Khalifa might beg to differ) consists of a coconut fiber insole ("foot mattress") with natural anti-bacterial agents, which is coated with a layer of natural latex that molds to the feet as the shoe is worn. All textiles are made from recycled plastic and the production process uses 100 percent water-based adhesives to protect the health of employees while also minimizing the carbon footprint.
"The mainstream footwear industry predominantly uses petroleum-based products that are cheap to manufacture but are often unsustainable," Tello said.
Tello points out that this type of business model can be duplicated in many other countries that harvest coconuts, such as the Philippines, India and Indonesia. However, because each piece of footwear is handmade and this concept is somewhat revolutionary, there are high initial startup costs.
To raise the $50,000 necessary to get the idea off the ground, Tello has launched a Kickstarter campaign. Those who pledge at least $50 will receive a pair of sustainable Joya da Terra flip-flops.
"Although Brazil is realizing tremendous income from World Cup soccer, the country is at a very delicate stage from an ecological standpoint," said Tello. "Millions of tourists are visiting the country and leaving their environmental 'footprints.' Many of the hosting cities have no recycling and poor sanitation capabilities.
"By giving a new value to these so-called 'waste' materials, we are introducing a new business model that would create safe, toxic-free jobs and encourage local governments to promote recycling."
Elsewhere in South America, a startup called Bureo Skateboards is building skateboards from the tons of plastic waste littering Chile’s beaches and waters. The company launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, which funded production of Bureo’s first board, the Minnow. The Minnow is shaped like a fish with a custom split tail and a scale pattern on the deck, which is made from reclaimed fishing nets.