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Eco-Friendly Sneaker Startup Fights Fast Fashion With 85 Percent Lower Carbon Footprint

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Eco-Friendly Sneaker Startup Fights Fast Fashion With 85 Percent Lower Carbon Footprint
Bendy shoes in different colors. The Bendy / Indiegogo

Update, September 10: The campaign for this project has switched from Indiegogo to Kickstarter and went live on September 6.

Two San Francisco fashionistas are working on an innovative shoe that is good for both your feet and your carbon footprint. The Bendy is a sneaker flat for women made ethically in the U.S. using less than one-sixth the carbon that it takes to produce the average sneaker, according to the product's media kit.


Mary Sue Papale and Yvette Turner spent their careers in the fashion industry before kicking off on their own in 2011 to start Ashbury Skies, a curated website for indie shoe designers. They are therefore well aware of the ecological and labor-rights violations rampant in what they call "fast fashion." The outsourcing of clothes manufacturing overseas in search of cheap labor has led to overproduction, unjust working conditions and enormous greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2017 report found that the fashion industry emits more greenhouse gases each year than shipping and international flights combined, The Guardian reported. With the Bendy, Papale and Turner are doing their part to nudge fashion down the footpath towards sustainability.

"It was clear to us that the planet did not need just another shoe. But what it did need was a shoe with a conscience. We will not BS you and tell you that these shoes have zero environmental impact—going barefoot is zero impact. Instead, we have a simple construction of great materials made by some very kind and talented folks in downtown LA. That allows for less transportation (low CO2) and fair wages paid to California workers, keeping it right in our backyard," Turner said.

While the average sneaker production emits 30 pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of leaving a 100-watt light bulb switched on for a full week, the Bendy only emits 4.5 pounds. Turner and Papale broke it down further. While the average sneaker emits 15 pounds of carbon dioxide in manufacturing, nine pounds in material processing and six pounds in transport, the Bendy emits only 2.2 pounds in manufacturing, 1.45 pounds in materials processing and 0.9 pounds in transport.

It is also designed to hit the comfort and style sweet spot. It has a flexible bottom, a cushioned, sneaker-like footbed and a soft leather body. The shoes only use four materials: leather, thread, bottom and the footbed. They are hand-stitched to avoid the use of toxic glue and the leather is sourced from a responsible tanner in Italy.

The shoes are not yet available, but anyone who signs up for information via their Indiegogo campaign will be notified when the shoes are ready and will be eligible for early supporter discounts.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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