You’re never too old to start a company, and Maria Otilia is the proof! At 77 years old, she founded a startup with her grandson Bernardo Carreira called 8000Kicks (aka DopeKicks) that manufactures lightweight, waterproof footwear made of hemp. The brand is 100% vegan and sustainable. These shoes are the world’s first sneakers to have insoles made exclusively from hemp. Plus, its other upcycled elements make the shoe completely eco-friendly.
8000Kicks first hit the market in 2019, but the story of how it started dates back to 2018 – when Carreira returned from his trip to London, where he ran a small communications company. As he settled back into his hometown neighborhood in a humble community in Santarém, Portugal, he decided to start a business with his grandmother. She had over 50 years of experience in assembling material used in the textile industry. Otília was delighted to participate in her grandson’s surprising plan to make shoes with hemp.
Carreira told the local NiT media outlet that the most fantastic part of the product is how the fabric’s main component is made of a natural industrial fiber known for its numerous advantages, both physically and ecologically. The beneficial features of the hemp they use include:
- Five times less water is needed to grow the plants than cotton
- No ecosystem harming chemicals are used on the crops
- The plants absorb CO2
- The plant has minimal impact on the soil
- And hemp one of the most durable materials on the planet.
Hemp is way better for the planet than most other materials. (On that note, did you know that hemp toilet paper could probably save the world?) Carreira explained during an interview with local media Sapo:
For example, a running shoe made of plastic has a carbon footprint of between 16 and 20 kilos of CO2. Our shoe is 4.1, which means it is considerably smaller. Being made from cannabis, from the moment we started making the shoe, we already absorb a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere, which is quite positive for the environment. Then there is the issue of seaweed and the fact that it is super comfortable and super light.
The vegan sneaker uses specially processed hemp to make them waterproof – yes, your feet will stay 100% dry even if you step in a deep puddle or stream while hiking! They’re also easy to clean and dust- and stain-resistant.
The company told Design Boom:
We wanted to make something for the active person, the challenger, the explorer, something that could provide the best experience under any conditions, and that’s why we built it waterproof. To guarantee that no water would come in, we also added a special waterproof membrane, providing a total of 2 layers of protection and keeping your feet dry no matter what.
8000Kick took four months looking for the most durable hemp material possible. Then, it partnered with skilled Portuguese manufacturers to use recycled rubber made from the soles of old shoes for the outsoles.
The company continued:
When designing our soles, we had to think of a wide range of applications. We balanced a rugged design for the heavy outdoor user that would be light enough for the casual user. By strategically carving the outsoles, we got a maximum grip level with reduced overall weight.
The insoles are crafted of natural tree-growing cork. It’s a non-deforming, naturally cushioned surface that’s also temperature-regulating, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal.
To top off their eco-friendly credentials, the sneakers are manufactured using ethical labor in a factory in Portugal.
Other people and companies working with hemp include Porche (which made a racecar out of hemp), Levis (who figured out how to make hemp as soft as cotton), homeowner Pam Bosch who remodeled her home to be more energy efficient using non-toxic hempcrete, and Researchers at the University of Alberta have developed hemp-derived carbon nanosheets that are better than graphene.
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