The Finnish footwear company Rens, founded by self-proclaimed “sneakerheads” Jesse Tran and Son Chu, is known for what it calls the world’s first sneaker made from coffee grounds. Rens has now expanded into sustainable athleisure by “revolutionizing a modern essential” with the recent launch of its Elemental hoodie line. The hoodie is made with a combination of yarn upcycled from coffee grounds, recycled plastic fibers and bamboo-based viscose; so, as Rens puts it, it’s more likely to be “warm on you, not the planet.”
This is also Rens’ first move into “Sustainable Fashion Meets Metaverse,” one of the hoodie’s taglines. The company has offered the first 2,022 buyers a free climate-neutral digital version of the hoodie, i.e., an NFT (non-fungible token), to mint and wear in the metaverse, as in such virtual spaces as Sandbox and Ready Player Me.
TriplePundit connected with Tran and Chu to get their take on the intersection of sustainable e-commerce with the growing digital fashion industry, and the climate impacts of both.
Why a coffee-based hoodie?
Tran and Chu say the recent move into apparel was a natural outgrowth of their audience’s desire for sustainable athleisure following the successful 2021 crowdfunding of Rens’ Nomad athletic sneakers.
The hoodie makes use of the same signature recycled coffee yarn as the sneaker lines — made by processing post-consumer coffee grounds with recycled plastic bottles — alongside bamboo-derived viscose.
Every hoodie diverts 43 cups of recycled coffee grounds and about 12 recycled plastic bottles from landfill and saves 2,300 liters of water compared to conventionally-produced cotton sweatshirts, according to Rens.
Beyond coffee: Rens wants a conversation on responsible digital fashion
The Elemental hoodie is the first Rens product to be accompanied by an NFT, something founder Jesse Tran calls a “metaphysical revolution in sustainable fashion.” He uses “metaphysical” to mean any current and future Rens apparel “with both physical and metaverse elements involved.”
And this is just the beginning. “We aim to provide our community with sustainable fashion products that can be worn in real life and the metaverse. In other words, we want those who proudly wear our physical hoodie to travel from one country to another be able to transition between realities wearing the same item, and that’s only possible by allowing them to use our sustainable products in the Web3 and the metaverse,” Tran and Chu explained to 3p.
Digital outfits aren’t new: They have existed for as long as people could dress virtual avatars in video and computer games (think Sims or Fortnite). Now, the concept of digital fashion is making a virtual wardrobe possible, too.
That said, digital clothing still has its own impact on the environment, as connecting to the Internet has its own carbon footprint. The blockchain technology generally used to register NFTs is also carbon-intensive.
To that end, Rens has chosen to use the low-emission Polygon blockchain and says residual emissions from minting the NFT hoodie is comparable to watching 20 minutes of YouTube.
Offsetting the impacts of sustainable fashion
Rens is currently working to ensure that the manufacture of all of its apparel, including the hoodie line and NFTs, is climate-neutral by working with Climate Partner and Aerial on recognized climate projects.
The company’s original sneaker line is officially climate neutral-certified, and Rens has offset more than 410 tons of CO2 by supporting wind power projects in northeast Brazil since 2018.
Meanwhile, from that same year until 2021, the company was able to recycle more than 750,000 cups of coffee and 250,000 single plastic bottles, Tran and Chu told 3p. They expect this number to grow with the company’s expanded product line.
On top of that, Rens says it only uses certified Global Recycled Standard (GRS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) materials — all of which are international, voluntary, full product standards that set requirements for third-party certification of various social and environmental practices — to keep the company’s carbon footprint low.
Once the production of the Nomad and Elemental product lines finishes, the staff at Rens will calculate total emissions from sourcing to shipping to end-of-life and choose climate products to offset all residual emissions.
Image credit: Rens consumer site
Chloé is a content marketer and storyteller in the sustainability, SaaS, and education fields. From NYC and based in Odense, Denmark, she is a foodie and frequent traveler most likely to be found in a café. She writes about coffee, food waste, sustainability innovation, and environmental conservation.