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September 3, 2021

Keen launches upcycling certification programme

Global footwear brand Keen, Inc has launched a new certification programme providing transparency into how much industrial waste is upcycled into its shoes.

By Hannah Abdulla

Keen will expand its Detox the Planet Initiative with the new Keen Harvest Certified Program, a tiered programme designed to reduce industrial waste by upcycling it into shoes.

The initiative builds on Keen’s growing Harvest offering and aims to relieve pressure on global landfills and minimise the use of virgin materials and lower greenhouse gas emissions.  Keen intends to share the details of this process beginning 2022.

Specifically, the Keen Harvest Certification Program features three levels of certification: Gold (greater than 50% upcycled materials); Silver (greater than 25%); and Bronze (greater than 10%). The ratings provide transparency to the percentage of waste upcycled into shoes.

The first shoe with this certification, the Howser Harvest, is Gold certified using upcycled car seat leather in 80% of the upper. It will launch in November.

“We first launched Harvest products 15 years ago using industrial waste from the rice industry,” says Erik Burbank, vice president of The Keen Effect. “Harvest is about upcycling industrial waste that would otherwise go to landfills, instead creating something new and useful, while lowering the demand for new material in the production process. We’re certifying Harvest products to both provide transparency to fans and to demystify and encourage other brands to help attack the industrial waste problem.”

He adds: “Less waste in landfills, less virgin materials sourced, less greenhouse gasses emitted – it’s a trifecta of benefits for the planet. We’re continuing our research on new Harvest materials, refining the overall model, and plan to open-source the programme in early 2022. This isn’t about creating a competitive advantage for Keen. We hope to see other brands adopt and even improve on what we’re doing and, in turn, share their learnings with others.  We need to work collectively if we want to create real change.”

For spring ’22, The Harvest Collection will expand with: the Howser Harvest Sandal for men and women; Elsa sneakers for women; and additional Howser Harvest slip-on and lace-up styles for men and women.

Select new models will feature upcycled waste coffee grounds. This keeps coffee grounds out of landfills where they create methane, a greenhouse gas known to be more harmful than carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Earlier this year, Keen established an open-sourced model for how it creates PFC-free footwear.

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