We are (absolutely) not perfect.
We make boots. This means we consume raw materials and energy. So our starting position on sustainability is always "we need to do better".
While we’re not close to perfect, we have consciously chosen to build VOYLOK to do as little harm as possible. We map the carbon impact of every step of our operations, from the sheep grazing in a pasture all the way to your feet, and create a full Carbon P&L to sit alongside our traditional accounts.
We’ve laid out the concrete steps we take to minimise our environmental impact below, but we do make carbon emissions and therefore we’re clearly part of the problem. To mitigate this, we support rewilding and reforestation projects that allow us to guarantee we take at least 50% more carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than we put in.
Our Kostroma Classic boot is made using just wool and hot water. By partnering with small workshops and keeping our supply chain tight, we take a slow fashion approach – creating small batches of product, keeping the same styles for a long time, minimising waste, ensuring the best working conditions for our craftspeople, and no animal cruelty for our sheep.
The wool we use is 100% renewable, biodegradable, and natural, sourced from sheep raised near our workshop – minimising emissions from transporting materials. All excess wool is turned into accessories or composted, which is what you can also do when you are done with your VOYLOKs. We suggest cutting them up for crafts or putting them in your garden. You could even put a plant in them.
Our sheep are never harmed and are allowed to wander freely in the countryside AKA living the dream. They are also helping to preserve the landscape by grazing, creating habitats for wildlife to thrive through regenerative farming practices.
Grown not Sewn.
The felted wool in VOYLOKs is created by compressing wool fibres and matting them together using heat, moisture, and pressure. Our craftspeople start with a ball of sheep's wool, comb it out, and begin growing and sculpting the boot, layer by layer. Think of it as 3D printing, except done by hand over the course of a week.
No seams. No chemicals. No bleach. No dye. Wild, right?
When the boot is ready, it is dunked in hot water and dried in a wood-fed oven fuelled with waste from local forestries. Because we don't use any chemicals, if you're lucky you might even find a tiny piece of hay in your VOYLOKs. It also means the wool still contains natural lanolin, which is great for dry skin on your feet.
A step in the right direction.
Our overshoes are made from natural rubber from the latex tree, and are easily and fully recyclable. However, the rubber industry is not the cleanest of places. As demand for natural rubber grows, plantations spring up – often at the expense of critical biodiversity. These plantations have long-standing reputations for poor worker treatment, and the rubber is often mixed with a range of fillers, stabilisers, and synthetics. Nasty.
We’re not satisfied with our rubber supply chain as it is today; it's too hard to trace the compound to the exact plantation, and this isn’t good enough. So, we’re moving all new purchases to FSC-certified rubber plantations that guarantee broad and strenuous environmental and biodiversity protections, as well as real, decent worker protections.
We’re also working on increasing the percentage of latex in our overshoes so that we can reduce the amount of non-rubber additives. This isn’t straightforward as these additives provide a lot of necessary properties, but it can be done.
Finally, we’re looking to the advances in the industry to fuel our next generation of products. First up will be post-consumer rubber. Up to now, it's been impossible to recycle rubber back into consumer products because the recycling process alters the compounds leaving them smelly and coarse. New technology allows us to fix this and close the loop. In the future, algal compounds and latex from dandelion sap (which can be grown in a much broader range of places than just the tropics) will feed into our products as soon as they are technically available. We can’t wait.
Good things come in reusable packages.
We hate packaging and we know you do too. A decade ago there might have been some mystique to a sleek black box arriving, but now there is just the constant tinge of regret that products that don’t need much protection (like a rubber overshoe) are bundled in layers of cardboard. So, we decided to eliminate packaging. Literally.
Our boots come in a Repack, which is a re-usable e-commerce package. When your boots arrive, you take them out, try them on, and then pop the package they came in back into the post for us to use on someone else’s order.
We know it’s not very fancy, but it’s better than the 177 kg of packaging waste made by every EU inhabitant annually. Now that’s not a good look.
Dip the ship.
We feel really strongly that airfreighting parcels around the world is bad business, so we only ship to domestic markets where we have a physical warehouse that can access existing, ground-based delivery. Sorry Europe, sorry America – that means we’re only shipping to the UK for now, but we will open new warehouses from which we can sustainably serve you as we grow.
As well as modelling the carbon cost of all our inbound shipping options, and routing our shipments via the lowest possible pathway, we also model the carbon cost of your delivery and use partners like the Royal Mail who have foot and bicycle-based teams going to your door – saving up to 50% of the emissions compared to a parcel-only service.
Obviously we need to look at our operating footprint as a company as well as the carbon cost of your deliveries. Firstly, we recognise that our business exists outside our office walls – we have families, partners, and dependents who rely on our salaries, but cause emissions too. That's why we offset the full annual emissions of all of our team and our dependents.
We also look at our technology and office emissions, and are especially concerned at the fact that the backbone of the Internet actually contributes 3.8% of global emissions. So, from MacBooks to individual page views on our website and the server emissions that support them, we track and offset the lot too.
Finally, we are aware of the role warehousing plays in the mix of global transport and logistics. Often overlooked, but not by us, we account for our share of all our warehouse partners emissions and offset accordingly.
The life and death of your Voyloks.
Nothing lasts forever – but all too often, other brands don't consider the impact of what happens to their products when they have reached the end of their usable lives. Footwear in particular is a problem, as recycling any of the materials is next to impossible due to the seams, stitching, and glue used throughout to hold various incompatible materials together.
Recycling our boots is much easier than traditional footwear. You slip off the overshoes, drop them in a recycling bin at your local tip, or send them back to us to recycle for you.
Your wool VOYLOK can literally just be composted in your garden or your friends' allotment – anywhere you can dig without getting into trouble (cemeteries are dodgy at the best of times). Top tip: cut them up first so they breakdown faster.
It’s easy to talk a sustainable game these days but much more important to back it up. We’re committed to publishing our annual Carbon P&L, but we’re also happy to open our books to anyone with questions and talk through how we track, what benchmarks we use, and, most importantly, the things we don’t do well enough yet and how we’re working to fix them. Email us and we’ll set up a call.