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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, February 23, 2024

Brands who deserve your dollars: Asportuguesas


This week’s column is dedicated to my love for those shoes that are ugly enough that they are cool. Think Birkenstocks, dad sneakers and now, the new addition to the list: Asportuguesas shoes. Asportuguesas started their shoe design process with the explicit intention to create sustainable footwear. They achieve this by using sustainable materials and a small, manual production process. 

Asportuguesas are the world’s first cork flip-flop company and they have made cork their signature material across their wide range of shoes. The cork is a 100% natural raw material extracted from cork oak trees. The cork oak is unique in its self-regenerating bark, meaning that the cork can be harvested and used to make the shoes without ever needing to cut down a tree. The company is able to harvest the cork from the same tree once every nine years. Asportuguesas blends the 100% natural cork with rubber to make the soles of all of their shoes. In addition to this blend, shoes that are closed-toe, like the mules, for example, use a fabric made from natural wool fibers. Though certainly not a sleek and modern look, the cork-rubber blend and the wool felt gives the shoes a cozy vibe that would be perfect for slipping on with a casual, comfortable outfit to run an errand. 

In addition to the materials, the brand’s manufacturing process is small-scale and effective. The cork extraction is all done by hand and, because of the difficult process to get the cork, all of the workers are very well-trained. To add another level of sustainability, no power or mechanical tools are used to take the bark off of the cork trees. Along with the extraction process, the brand utilizes all local workers from rural areas in Portugal. This is important because it creates jobs in the community, and Asportuguesas provides cork workers the highest salaries in the agricultural sector in Portugal. 

Large companies, like Starbucks and IKEA, have committed to agoal of reducing more greenhouse gases that they emit over the next decade or so. However, Asportuguesas has already achieved a negative carbon footprint thanks to some of the core aspects of their production process. First, cork naturally removes about 740 times its weight in CO2 from the atmosphere. Second, the manual production process means that manufacturing is not causing many greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the company has achieved its goal of helping rather than hurting the planet by implementing a simple supply chain and using regenerative materials. 

These shoes could very well be the next Birkenstocks, and they have a very similar energy to the Birkenstock Boston style. My two favorite Asportuguesas shoes are thetaupe, round toe mules and the light blue round toe city shoes. Add them to your holiday list and help our planet out!