Timberland offshoot Erem debuts with Xerocole boots to address a perplexing design problem: How do you build biodegradable boots that won’t biodegrade while you’re wearing them? In the process, the brand came up with its own word.
Today, Erem launched its first products: two boots designed for desert travel. In an attempt to deliver a durable boot that’s also environmentally friendly, the company builds the Xerocole and high-top Xerocole Expedition with various ingenious materials.
Cork, vegetable-tanned leather, and a single-piece rubber sole with a “biodegradability accelerator” are all incorporated.
Each boot does look ideal for desert wear. The robust outsole with a thick toe cap looks great for traction and weathering against scuffs. The gusseted tongue should help keep the sand out, and the boots’ relatively low weight promises to combat fatigue from bogging down in deep sand.
GearJunkie currently has the boots in testing to confirm.
Erem Xerocole Materials
The brand’s choice of vegetable-tanned leather, certified through the Leather Working Group (LWG), also makes sense. The vegetable tanning process is more sustainable than the alternative chrome tanning, and the resulting product has a better reputation for resisting wear.
The LWG’s certification program also dovetails with Erem’s sustainable messaging. Formed in 2005, the group audits leather brands, retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers for environmental compliance.
On its 0-100 scale, which considers factors like waterway pollution and worker health, Erem’s leather gets the “gold” rating of 85 or higher.
Like the TENCEL lyocell lining, other materials check out in terms of sustainability but raise performance question marks. Lyocell is made with wood fibers, often eucalyptus or bamboo, in a closed-loop manufacturing process. Functionally, it’s known for its high strength and flexibility and for being absorptive — similar to cotton.
Desert temps make sweaty feet, so you may want your boots to wick moisture more so than absorb it. Still, the material and the cotton canvas woven into it are 100% biodegradable.
What Does ‘Biocircular’ Mean?
However, not all of Erem’s stated environmentalism is directly measurable. One concept, in particular, eludes quantification.
There is no concrete definition for “biocircularity.” And Erem only goes as far as saying that 100% of its materials and construction techniques have “proven paths back to nature.”
It’s sometimes unclear what those paths are — the cork footbed, for instance, contains latex. The unitary rubber outsole biodegrades after 7 years based on independent third-party testing, but reports from those tests are unavailable.
Erem CEO and co-founder Noah Swartz seeks to set the record straight. “Bio,” he told us, refers to sustainable materials and construction; “circular” means reusing and repairing shoes and materials over and over again.
Rather than a proper word, it’s an Erem trademark.
“The Xerocole collection soles contain 70% recycled rubber and a proprietary, added biodegradability accelerator that enables biodegradation in 7 to 12 years depending on environmental conditions compared to a thousand years for the industry standard,” Swartz said.
“However, we believe that reuse is the most sustainable option. We have selected a partner who can devulcanize our rubber soles, allowing them to be easily turned into new biodegradable rubber products, including new Erem outsoles.”
To incentivize customers to return old pairs to complete Erem’s circle, the brand offers credits toward new purchases.
Erem also promises to share its complete materials list on request. And it makes big plans to plant one million prickly pear cacti, with the goals of sequestering carbon and yielding fruit. Finally, it will donate 1% of its profits to the Arizona Trail Association, which manages the state’s north-south thru-hiking trail.
Erem Xerocole Availability, MSRP, and Value Added
An emphasis on repairability prolongs the boots’ working life, along with a credit program toward your next Erem purchase when you send in your old pair. A lifetime guarantee on materials and workmanship backs up every boot.