A global movement to make shoes more sustainably is growing, as studies show that the materials commonly used to make footwear contribute to environmental deterioration and can have negative effects on workers’ health. Auburn University researcher Young-A Lee and her research team have recently developed a promising biodegradable material alternative to leather, using the byproducts of fermented green tea through an Environmental Protection Agency-funded grant.

Young-A Lee’s research at Iowa State University has found that a green tea-based cellulosic material behaves the same way as leather, but without the same negative environmental side effects. A single layer of this material may soften in rain or snow and lose its durability,  but by layering this material with other eco-friendly fabrics, a much more durable product can be created.

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