Sustainably focused brands Nespresso and Zèta have partnered to create a sneaker collection using recycled coffee grounds.
When Laure Babin founded zero-waste fashion start-up Zèta in September 2020, she never imagined she’d be releasing a shoe collection with coffee giant Nespresso only two years later.
“It all started when the CEO of Nespresso, Guillaume Le Cunff, came across Zèta on LinkedIn in January 2021. He was intrigued by our approach, as recycled, vegan and grape trainers (one of Zèta’s original upcycled products) are not very common. Guillaume sent a direct message with a challenge: ‘Bravo for the grape trainers, but what about coffee?’” says Babin.
“At the time, it was difficult as we didn’t know how to make leather out of coffee grounds. We began the journey to search for suppliers who could undertake research and development to create vegan leather made from coffee.
“It turned out that there was no coffee leather on the market. We finally met Tintex Textiles, a leader in the innovative textile market in Portugal, who decided to join us on this adventure. After eight months of testing, research, and development, Tintex created a coffee material that could be processed into trainers,” Babin says.
Inspired by the principles of zero-waste, eco-design, and French style, Zèta has launched Re:Ground, a limited-edition collection of coffee sneakers made from 80 per cent recycled and upcycled materials. Each pair of sneakers in the capsule collection contains Nespresso’s recycled coffee grounds, equivalent to 12 espressos.
In keeping with Zèta’s sustainable ethos, the Re:Ground sneakers, priced at USD$166, are only available in the European market to avoid overseas air shipments and minimise its carbon footprint.
Zèta is committed to working in short circuits with only European suppliers close to its manufacturing workshop to reduce its carbon footprint. The vegan coffee leather is therefore made in Portugal from spent coffee grounds from Nespresso recycling centres in Europe, where coffee grounds are extracted and separated from the aluminium capsules. Babin says this coffee leatherette is an innovative and durable material that reflects economic circularity.
The shoes are manufactured using environmentally friendly materials, present both in the textile substrate underlay, which is a 100 per cent cotton fabric, and in the cover layer, made of approximately 20 per cent green and biobased polymers, and approximately 65 per cent water-based polyurethane.
“To this we added 15 per cent of coffee grounds which come from the Nespresso capsule recycling program. This coffee imitation leather has several sustainable aspects, including the incorporation of used coffee grounds, high content of organic substances, natural dyes, and eco-responsible treatment,” Babin says.
“Coffee grounds are incorporated into the insole and outsole, and all the brown details of the shoe contain coffee. The soles have a speckled effect that comes from particles of recycled rubber and coffee grounds.”
This capsule collection consists of three models titled Latte, Cappuccino and Ristretto.
“It is the sole that fits perfectly with the name of the drink. A white sole for the Latte trainer, a honey sole for the Cappuccino trainer, and a dark brown sole for the Ristretto trainer, making this collection a unique creation,” says Babin.
The composition of the Re:Ground sneakers remains faithful to the classic model of Zèta shoes with the choice of corn plant material for the outside of the sneakers. The inner lining is in mesh made from plastic bottles fished out of the Mediterranean Sea. The laces are made from recycled plastic, the removable insole is recycled cork, the outsole in recycled synthetic rubber, and the glue is recycled latex.
To Babin, it was imperative to create a brand using recycled materials in the footwear.
“We can no longer only use sustainable materials or natural resources. We have an abundance of waste we can use. The idea was to give another life to waste and create a new product combining innovation, aestheticism, and durability,” she says.
Babin says it was only fitting to partner with Nespresso for this collection, as the brands share the same environmental and social responsibility commitments.
“Nespresso has a deep and longstanding commitment to sustainability, and circularity is a key part of this,” she says.
According to Anne-Claude Truchement, Nespresso’s Head of Accessories, sustainability is ingrained in the company’s DNA, having started its capsule recycling program in 1991.
“For more than 30 years, we have been exploring and learning how best to integrate social and environmental considerations into our activities while also improving efficiency and growing sustainably,” says Truchement.
“For example, Nespresso offers an upcycled beach towel made from 100 per cent recycled materials including post-consumer plastic bottles and plastic captured from the sea, reducing the waste in the planet’s oceans.”
Truchement says Nespresso’s recent B-Corp certification is a designation that the business is meeting high standards of verified sustainable performance, accountability, and transparency.
“Becoming B-Corp certified is a marker for the positive impact Nespresso has made in the coffee industry. A key contributing element is our unique approach to coffee sourcing through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, which is a coffee sourcing program designed to ensure the continued supply of high-quality coffee while improving the livelihoods of farmers and their communities, and protecting the environment,” she says.
Truchement adds that operating sustainably is not important, it’s a must-have in the configuration of any business.
“Not only as humans but as companies, we understand that there is a need to transition from a linear to a circular economy,” she says.
“Nespresso’s central focus is moving towards the sustainable production of coffee and engaging consumers in the importance of sustainable consumption, which is why we participate in these initiatives, to inspire them and engage them into our recycling effort.
“I think what Laure has done is amazing because it turns waste into something super stylish. The whole purpose is to bring this idea of a circular economy to the fashion industry where we know there is much to be done.”
Babin hopes Zèta’s commitment to transparent and sustainable manufacturing encourages other brands in the fashion industry to pushing the boundaries in terms of creating new value from waste.
“While we may have less weight than other big brands like fast fashion companies, we try to operate in the best way possible with the best composition of products, and the best working conditions for craftsmen. In this way, it can be a source of inspiration to other brands,” she says.
“Having Nespresso and Zèta come together was a great way for us to show others how much innovation is a key element in this process. We need business owners like Laure that are super agile, passionate, young, and dynamic to drive this change,” says Truchement.
From its inception, Zèta had the challenge to deconstruct the shoe industry and offer a collection of sneakers made entirely from vegan and recyclable materials, while being as transparent as possible. The company also gives a second life to materials such as grapes and corn, and considering the multitude of waste that exists, Babin doesn’t intend to stop there.
“We’re working on developing a range of shoes made of seaweed, but we’re still in the research and development stage at the moment. What’s more, we plan to alter our logistics by making shipments by train to further reduce our carbon footprint. We’d also love to become B-Corp certified as a reinforcement of our commitment to the environment,” she says.
Babin hopes the Re:Ground capsule collection delights coffee and fashion fans alike, and endeavours to continue designing recyclable and vegan sneakers with the lowest environmental impact possible.
“Knowing how your shoes are made, and under what conditions, makes the difference. With every step you take, you support a brand that respects animals, the planet, and its people,” says Babin.
“Re:Ground is the embodiment of our collaboration with Nespresso, a chic and stylish shoe that celebrates the value of coffee and the virtue of circularity.”
This article was first published in the July/August 2022 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.