13 March 2018
Raw Materials in Hunter Wellington Boots
Hunter wellington boots are one of the most popular choices for rain boots. Originating in 1956, they are a classic boot and are both practical and fashionable. As stated on their Heritage webpage, “every pair of Hunter boots is handcrafted from natural rubber and assembled over three days” (“Heritage”). Each part is “cut by hand from a 3D pattern” and then “hand assembled on an aluminum last bespoke to Hunter” (“Heritage”). Hunter claims that their products are made from “high quality materials, using innovative design and production techniques” (“Corporate Responsibility”). However, although they do claim to sustainably and responsibly source the raw materials for their boots, the materials that are used are not the most environmentally friendly.
Raw Material Acquisition
The manufacturing of Hunter wellington boots starts with the acquisition of raw materials. Hunter states that they source their natural latex rubber from “plantations in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand” (“Corporate Responsibility”). Latex sap consists of “30-40% rubber particles, 55-65% water, and small amounts of protein, sterol glycosides, resins, ash, and sugars” (Latex). The latex is collected from the rubber tree in a process called tapping (“Corporate Responsibility”). A cut is made in the bark of the rubber tree for the latex to flow out into a cup which can be collected later in the day (Freudenrich). Rubber trees originated in Central and South America, and most current natural rubber trees are Latin American trees that have been transplanted in Southeast Asia (Freudenrich). It takes about “six years for a rubber tree to grow to a point where it's economical to harvest [the latex]” (Freudenrich). Rubber trees are often rested after a period of heavy tapping, but with care “the tree’s useful life may extend to more than 20 years” (Britannica).
Rubber is a secondary resource because it is obtained from processing latex sap. While it may be a renewable resource because the rubber trees can be regrown, there are environmental issues involved with the expansion of rubber tree plantations in Southeast Asia. Today, “more than one million hectares” of land in Asia have “been converted to rubber plantation” as rubber has become the best cash crop (Fox, Castella, Ziegler, & Westley 1). “Climate modeling suggests that the expansion of rubber plantations should not affect rainfall” overall, but “the impact may be profound” at the local level (Fox, Castella, Ziegler, & Westley 4). A study done in Xishuangbanna, China showed that “the introduction of rubber plantations can reduce the flow of streams and lead to drier conditions in a catchment area” (Fox, Castella, Ziegler, & Westley 4). The expansion of rubber plantations means that more water from the monsoons would be used on the trees, leaving less to run off into other areas which will create a drier environment.
Furthermore, trees “have a strong influence on levels of atmospheric CO2 because about one-half of plant biomass consists of carbon” (Fox, Castella, Ziegler, & Westley 5). Trees remove and store CO2 through the process of photosynthesis. If wild forests are regularly removed to make way for rubber plantations, large amounts of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere as a result of killing the trees. It is also stated that “the establishment of rubber plantations tends to be harmful to soils not because of rubber per se, but rather because of destructive soil preparation and management” (Fox, Castella, Ziegler, & Westley 4). Mechanical terracing has caused soil quality deterioration, and the usage of fertilizers and pesticides may contaminate water, becoming a health hazard (Fox, Castella, Ziegler, & Westley 4-5).
Manufacturing, Processing, & Formulation
After the latex is collected, it is “converted into solid rubber ready for use in the manufacture of products” (“Corporate Responsibility”). The most likely method for doing this is recovering rubber from emulsion “by coagulation with formic acid, creating crumbs that resemble curds of milk” (Britannica). After the rubber is solidified, it is transported to Hunter’s rubber footwear suppliers (“Corporate Responsibility”).
The solid rubber is then “mixed with pigments and rolled into thin sheets of rubber” (“Corporate Responsibility”). Hunter does not specify what pigments are used, but common coloring agents for rubber include carbon black, florescent pigments, molybdenum pigment, and organic pigments (Vipul DyeChem). For the classic black boots, the pigment used is most likely carbon black. Carbon black is “derived from the petroleum refinery process” (Vipul DyeChem). This can be useful as it may allow the byproducts of petroleum refinery to be concurrently used to produce carbon black. However, these processes still involve the heavy usage of fossil fuels, which contributes to global warming. The “preferred feedstock for most carbon black production processes” is “heavy oil with a high content of aromatic hydrocarbons”, which “gives the greatest carbon-to-hydrogen ratio” (Orion 12).
There are many different methods for deriving carbon black, one of which is Orion Engineered Carbons’ furnace black process. This method is “continuous and uses liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons as feedstock and as heat source, respectively” (Orion 14). When natural gas is available, the liquid feedstock is sprayed into the heat source generated by the combustion of natural gas (Orion 14). The carbon black that forms is then cooled and collected as either a powder or as pellets (Orion 14). Orion states that carbon black is useful not only as a pigment but also as “a reinforcing agent in rubber applications” (42).
After the rubber sheets are made, they are cut into the twenty-eight pieces used to make the boots and are then “molded by hand onto metal lasts” (“Corporate Responsibility”). The molded boots are “then put under intense heat and pressure in a process known as vulcanization” (“Corporate Responsibility”). The finished boots are “both waterproof and comfortable” (“Corporate Responsibility”).
Vulcanization is a “chemical process by which the physical properties of natural or synthetic rubber are improved” (Britannica). The finished rubber has a “higher tensile strength and resistance to swelling and abrasion and is elastic over a greater range of temperatures” (Britannica). Vulcanization is most commonly done as a reaction with sulfur (Polymerdatabase.com). Accelerators, which are compounds that “increase the speed of vulcanization and enable vulcanization to proceed at a lower temperature and with greater efficiency,” are usually added alongside the sulfur (Polymerdatabase.com). Other compounds such as zinc oxide may also be added to “improve further the qualities of the rubber” (Britannica).
Use, Reuse, Recycle
After the boots are manufactured, no additional materials are usually needed to use. Because they are durable, they are usually worn until they simply do not fit anymore. Boots with wear and tear may be repaired at a shoe repair shop or using adhesives like Shoe Goo (Recyclebank). After their wear time is over, boots may be reused and repurposed to become things like garden décor or plant pots. Rain boots fall under the category of textiles, which “are not accepted by most curbside recycling programs” (Recyclebank). However, some private recycling companies such as USAgain and American Textile Recycling Service will accept rain boots and other textiles (Recyclebank).
Despite Hunter attempting to sustainably source materials for their wellington rain boots, the materials used are not the most sustainable or environmentally friendly. Although the rubber is natural, it is sourced from rubber tree plantations in Asia, which may be creating harmful consequences on the surrounding environment. The latex collected is processed into solid rubber sheets that can be molded into the boots. One of the possible pigments used, carbon black, is a product of petroleum refinery, which only encourages the increased use of fossil fuels in industry. The boots themselves are durable and long-lasting; however, they are not easily recyclable. They may be reused and repurposed, but in the long run their inability to be biodegradable makes them less environmentally friendly.
"Because You Asked: How Can I Recycle My Rain Boots?" Recyclebank. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2018. <https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/because-you-asked-how-can-i-recycle-my-rain-boots>.
"Corporate Responsibility." Corporate Responsibility | Official Hunter Boots Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <https://www.hunterboots.com/us/en_us/responsibility/product/>.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Vulcanization." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/technology/vulcanization>.
Fox, Jefferson M., Jean-Christophe Castella, Alan D. Ziegler, and Sidney B. Westley. "Rubber Plantations Expand in Southeast Asia: What Are the Consequences for the Environment?" AsiaPacific Issues 114 (2014): n. pag. Web. 6 Feb. 2018. <https://www.eastwestcenter.org/sites/default/files/private/api114.pdf>.
Freudenrich, Ph.D. Craig. "How Rubber Works." HowStuffWorks Science. HowStuffWorks, 14 Oct. 2008. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <https://science.howstuffworks.com/rubber1.htm>.
Gent, Alan N. "Rubber." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 May 2016. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/science/rubber-chemical-compound/Tapping-and-coagulation>.
"Heritage." Hunter Boots | Discover | The Making of an Icon: The Original Boot. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <https://www.hunterboots.com/us/en_us/discover/heritage-the-original-boot/>.
"How Is Rubber Vulcanised? The Chemistry and History." Martin's Rubber Company. N.p., 13 June 2016. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <http://www.martins-rubber.co.uk/blog/how-is-rubber-vulcanised-the-chemistry-and-history/>.
"Latex." How Products Are Made. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Latex.html>.
Orion Engineered Carbons. "What Is Carbon Black?" (n.d.): n. pag. 6 Oct. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2018.
Polymerdatabase.com, CROW © 2015. "Polymer Properties Database." Sulfur Vulcanization. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2018. <http://polymerdatabase.com/polymer%20chemistry/Vulcanization.html>.
"Types of Pigments Used in Rubber Industry." Vipul DyeChem Ltd. N.p., 12 July 2016. Web. 13 Feb. 2018. <http://vipuldyes.com/blog/2016/07/12/types-of-pigment-used-in-rubber-industry/>.
15 March 2018
Hunter Original Wellington Boots: Waste
Every time rain season starts, Hunter rain boots appear in masses everywhere on the streets. The company uses natural rubber for all their products because it’s part of their brand, which explains the slightly pricy cost. Regardless, they are quite popular because of their simple and classic style, functionality, and quality. But with so many people buying Hunter Boots, the question arises about how environmentally harmful they are to produce. Fortunately, Hunter Wellington Boots are mostly environmentally friendly, but they produce a fair amount of waste mainly during the rubber manufacturing process.
During the raw material acquisition of rubber, there is zero waste produced. Natural rubber comes from trees through a process called tapping. Hunter gets their rubber from rubber tree plantations in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. An incision is made in the tree’s bark and the liquid that comes out drips in to a container attached to the tree, and this is rubber in its original form. No waste is produced in this first step of harvesting the rubber, because all that is happening is rubber simply being collected. There is no harmful gas emitted into the air nor is there toxic chemicals being released. The next step is where much of the waste is formed.
The main type of waste from manufacturing rubber is effluent, which comes from adding acid to the liquid rubber. After the liquid rubber is collected, everything is poured into a bin and either formic or acetic is added to make the solution coagulate (form a solid). Fifteen to thirty minutes later the liquid thickens and turns into solid rubber, which is then transported to Hunter’s footwear suppliers. There the solid rubber is put through a compression machine with two cylinders that rolls it into sheets and mixes in pigments that contribute to the wide range of boot colors that Hunter carries. The machine squeezes out excess water from the rubber all while flattening it into thin sheets. The water that comes out of the rubber sheets contains traces of the acid that was previously added. If this water is dumped irresponsibly, it could cause death to some aquatic organisms living in the water. However, if the effluent is neutralized, the harmful effects can be minimized. Hunter claims they require all their suppliers “to provide a safe workplace and to meet high standards in areas such as human rights, labor practices and the environment” (Hunter) so it can only be assumed that they use proper wastewater treatment practices.
Once the rubber sheets are formed, they are cut into parts that are used to make the boots. The waste in this step could be assumed to come from fossil fuels powering the machines that are cutting the rubber. The excess rubber that aren’t part of the main pieces are also considered waste as they are unusable in making boots. These scrap pieces could either be made into other rubber products or just thrown away, but what Hunter does with them is unknown. The cutouts consist of 28 parts which are hand molded onto metal lasts to make one boot. The finished product is trimmed once again to make even edges.
When the boots are trimmed and are fully assembled, they are place in a heating line that goes through an autoclave, an industrial chamber with elevated temperature and pressure, or a machine that looks like a giant microwave or oven. The boots are put under extremely intense pressure and heated in a process called vulcanization. This makes the boots waterproof, stronger, more flexible, more durable, and immune to temperatures. The Hunter Wellington boots bounces back from all the creases and wrinkles from walking because of vulcanization. However, the drawbacks of this process include airborne waste like thermal emissions and possibly odor from the heated sulfur, or the variety of chemicals that could substitute it and the addittive that was used. There are many chemicals that can vulcanize rubber. Sulfur is by far the most common chemical in vulcanization, so it is assumed that sulfur is what Hunter uses as they do not specify their method or what catalyst is added. Sulfur alone can take a long period of time and a large amount, so accelerators are added as catalysts like zinc oxide, stearic acid, or antidegradants to speed up the process. The airborne waste depends on which chemical and catalyst were chosen, but this is technically the last of waste that comes from manufacturing the boots.
The rest of the overall waste comes from distribution and transportation, which for now is inevitable until there is a better method of transportation. Airplanes, ships, trucks, or either freight trains are needed to bring the boots overseas into stores or homes. This releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Airplane releasing CO2 is the most toxic because it releases the gas directly in the air, high up in the atmosphere. Hunter supplies numerous stores like Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, Dick’s Sporting Goods, several Bloomindale’s, and one gallon of gasoline produces about twenty pounds of CO2. Multiply this number by all the gallons of gasoline needed to deliver the boots to all these destinations and homes to see the damage, not to mention Hunter ships worldwide. On their website though, Hunter states that their rubber plantations “are near to [their] supplier factories, reducing carbon emissions from transport. They operate to high standards, respecting the environment,” (Hunter) so it seems like they’re environmentally aware. They are not alone because other brands like Birkenstock, Toms, or Vans have to do the same thing to sell their products. Greenhouse gas emissions are just an unavoidable outcome; Hunter isn’t to blame.
The Wellington boots are now manufactured and delivered, the next step in its life cycle is Use, Reuse, and Maintenance. There is extremely little waste in this step depending on how well the boots are kept and how often they are worn. If the boots are worn often and get muddy or just dirty overall, they will need to be cleaned in some way. If they are washed, there will be dirty water that isn’t exactly harmful if it is just mud, which could be dumped outside in the backyard. But if there is soap or any kind of cleaner, then the sink would be a better place to dump the water. If the boots are just wiped down with a washcloth or towel, then there is no waste except for water from washing the towel. If wiping the boots with a wipe or paper towel, then the paper towel becomes waste.
Not wearing the Hunter boots at all could also produce waste. When the boots are left unworn for a long time, they produce “bloom.” The boots will look like it has white powder all over it; it could look ashy and unsightly. But this is a property of natural rubber, the blooming is just a result of insoluble particles rising to the surface. This does not mean the boots are defective or the quality is low, they just need to be cleaned. Getting rid of the bloom can simply be done with a wet paper towel or with the Hunter Boot Shiner. The waste here would be from the paper towel, and the shiner being thrown away after polishing.
In the last stage of its life cycle, Hunter boots gets recycled, although there is no information found on how to do this correctly. Waste management of the Hunter boots are assumed from tire recycling, as that was the only result from researching how to recycle rubber boots. Rubber bits can be made into playground flooring, rubberized asphalt. Additionally, they can be used as fuel. Rubber bits are 25% more efficient than coal and produce lower emissions. The majority of them go into powering cement kilns and paper plants. However, the boots can be repurposed to garden planters for a fun, unique look rather than traditional planters. They can be used to dress up a scarecrow, or to entertain a kitten. They can also be taken to textile recycling plants because rainboots and other footwear fall under the waste category of textiles, workers there will know what to do with them. In this case, the waste produced would be CO2 coming from the vehicle driving the shoes to the recycling plant, and this is the absolute last of the waste produced.
Being such a reputable and well-known brand, Hunter must be environmentally conscious to maintain their name and business. Thus accordingly, their production of the boots isn’t too detrimental to the environment if the effluent is dealt with properly. After all, the bulk of the waste only comes from the manufacturing and processing stage. The rest of the boots’ life cycle does not produce any unnecessary waste. Maybe that’s also why Hunter boots can be a bit expensive, but they’re still a good investment for those rainy days.
“Corporate Responsibility.” Hunter Boots, www.hunterboots.com/us/en_us/responsibility/product/.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Vulcanization.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 24 Nov. 2014, www.britannica.com/technology/vulcanization.
“Heritage.” Hunter Boots , www.hunterboots.com/us/en_us/discover/heritage-the-original-boot/.
Hooper, Adam. “How Is Rubber Vulcanised? The Chemistry and History.” Martin's Rubber Company, 10 Oct. 2014, www.martins-rubber.co.uk/blog/how-is-rubber-vulcanised-the-chemistry-and-history/.
“How The Hunter Original Wellington Boots Are Made .” Youtube, Hunter Boots, 17 Apr. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZkyIFPOfb8.
“How to Recycle Rubber.” Rubber-Cal, www.rubbercal.com/sheet-rubber/how-to-recycle-rubber/#bottom.
Hwang, Shi. “Shelf Life vs. Service Life in Rubber Products.” WARCO BILTRITE: Proudly Manufacturing Quality Rubber Products in the USA since 1910., www.warco.com/articles/shelf-life-vs-service-life-in-rubber-products/.
Mergen, Alexa. “Can Rubber Boots Be Recycled?” Our Everyday Life, 28 Sept. 2017, oureverydaylife.com/can-rubber-boots-be-recycled-12353083.html.
Rinkesh. “Recyling Rubber.” Conserve Energy Future, 24 Dec. 2016, www.conserve-energy-future.com/recyclingrubber.php.
“Rubber: Life Cycle.” Pratt CSDS, Pratt Institute, csds.pratt.edu/resource-center/materials-research/material-life-cycles/rubber-life-cycle/.
Embodied Energy: Hunter Wellington Boots
For centuries rubber has been utilized in a wide range of products due to its beneficial attributes. Durability and flexibility are key characteristics of rubber, which inherently make it one of the more versatile raw materials. The fact that rubber is used in everything from clothing to automobile tires exhibits its multifaceted nature. One aspect of society where rubber is seen and used almost on a daily basis is with clothing, in the case of this paper particularly rain boots. Wherever there is rain people tend to wear a pair of rain boots that are either entirely comprised of rubber or have specific rubber components. This is because rubber is waterproof, durable, and a great insulator which makes it a perfect material for footwear designed to withstand rain. Although a majority of people may have owned a pair of rubber rain boots, many do not know how they are manufactured and more importantly the energy associated with its entire life-cycle. As society has become more conscious of the impact mass produced products have on the environment, companies have followed suit by being more transparent with the entire production process and making eco-friendly adaptations to it. For older companies these changes have proven to be intense as many have had to revamp their entire production processes to meet the new standards set by society. But for companies like Hunter, a British rain boot company that has been established since 1856, the adjustments to modern society have been minimal. According to Hunter the company their boots are for the most part crafted by hand using the same techniques since the company’s inception with the assistance of some modern machinery. Hunter has gone to great lengths to ensure that every aspect of the production process for their footwear is provided to the public on their website. The Hunter Wellington boot is one of the company’s most iconic products and the prime example used by Hunter to portray their processes. By examining the embodied energy used throughout the life-cycle of the Hunter Wellington boot we can assess the efficiency of Hunter’s operations and how it compares to the general consensus on how much energy is associated with a product.
The beginning of the Hunter Wellington’s life-cycle is the raw materials used to make it. The embodied energy associated with the raw materials pertains to the acquisition of said materials and everything involved with that process. At its core the Hunter Wellington boot is comprised of natural rubber, which is found in the Para rubber tree, also known by its scientific name: Hevea brasiliensis (Woodford). These trees are of South American descent but are mainly found today on plantations in Southeast Asia and Western Africa where more than 90% of the total world’s natural rubber production occurs (Rubber Tree). Hunter sources its rubber from plantations in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam (Sourcing). In order to produce the rubber we see in consumer goods, the latex sap within the rubber trees has to be obtained and undergo several processes. The first step towards acquiring the latex is planting the trees and cultivating enough of them for a plantation, which takes on average about eight years (Latex). Since the trees are not native to a tropical climate, the soil must be prepared a certain way according to the geography of the plantation (Rubber Plantation). This is usually done with farm animals or farming equipment, such as tractors that run on fossil fuels. Both of these methods harness their power from chemical energy in the form of an animal absorbing the nutrients from its food and the tractor burning the fuel. Then the chemical energy is converted to mechanical energy as the soil is groomed to the most optimal conditions. Once the soil is ready the trees are planted and cultivated which utilizes solar energy as well as chemical energy as they complete photosynthesis. When the trees have developed enough they are tapped for their latex, which is similar to how tree sap is harvested for maple syrup. A small incision in the tree is made with hand tools using mechanical energy and gravitational energy allows for the latex flows out and into a collection cup (Armstrong). Tapping is usually repeated every other day by making a cut just below the previous one until the chain of cuts reach about a foot off the ground and then the process is repeated on the opposite side. It usually takes about three hours for all the latex to exit one cut resulting in less than a cup of latex (Latex). Several chemicals and stimulants utilizing chemical energy are added to make the tapping process more efficient (Rubber Plantation). For example ammonia or formaldehyde are added to the collection cup in order to prevent the latex from coagulating and ethephon is added below the cuts to regulate the growth of the trees (Latex). Overall the amount of energy associated with obtaining latex is very large since it requires the establishment and upkeep of rubber tree plantations as well as the tapping of each tree multiple times. Once an adequate amount of latex is obtained a small portion of it is set aside to become liquid concentrate, used for adhesives and coating, while the rest is prepared to be solidified as dry stock, which is the first part of the manufacturing process for the Hunter Wellington boots.
The second part of the Hunter Wellington’s life-cycle is the manufacturing procedures that encompasses transforming the raw materials into a finished commercial product. The first step is to solidify the liquid latex with the use of acid and large extrusion dryers. Acid is added to the latex in order to coagulate it with chemical energy and the dryers are used to remove all of the water with thermal energy (Latex). After being dried the latex becomes solid rubber with a crumb-like outer material. Once enough solid rubber is made, it is formed into bales and transported to Hunter’s rubber footwear supplier factories where the boots are made. Hunter has supplier factories located in China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The mode of transportation for the solid rubber depends on its destination, since some locations would require land, sea, or air travel. Regardless of what shipping method is used the trucks, ships, and planes used all run on fossil fuels (Hanania). Luckily a majority of the factories are situated in Southeast Asia near the rubber tree plantations so Hunter has been able to reduce carbon emissions from transport (Sourcing). Upon arrival at the factory the rubber is mixed with pigments to achieve the desired color and then rolled into thin sheets using large machines running on fossil fuels. Each component of the Wellington boot is cut out from the sheets by factory workers using band saws and other reciprocating cutting machinery powered by electricity. The pieces are then molded by hand onto boot shaped metal post with mechanical energy and then bonded together with chemical energy through the use of adhesive (Product). Design elements such as the knurling on the sole, the belt buckle assembly, and the Hunter logo are added through the use of various machines and tools utilizing mechanical and electrical energy (The Hunter Boot). The knurling is added by a roller machine that imprints the tread pattern onto the piece. The belt buckle and strap are riveted with a mechanical press with electrical energy onto the piece of rubber that is glued towards the top of the boot. The Hunter logo is placed onto the boot by hand and then rolled on using a hand tool with adhesive. Once all of the aspects of the Wellington boot are added it is trimmed by hand using a measuring apparatus and a band saw harnessing both mechanical and electrical energy. The boots are placed on a freely rotating pedestal and marked with a shallow cut line by a horizontal blade fixed at a certain height and distance from the boot (The Hunter Boot). This even line allows for the workers to consistently make exact cuts which greatly improves the fit and finish of the boots. The final part of the manufacturing process is the vulcanization of each boot. Vulcanization is a chemical process that improves the physical properties of natural and synthetic rubbers through the use of thermal and chemical energy (Hooper). It involves the chemical bonding of rubber with sulfur and in some cases carbon black and zinc oxide are also added (Vulcanization). The bonding is done through the application of heat at high temperatures ranging from 140 to 180 degrees Celsius (Vulcanization). The Hunter Wellington boots are vulcanized by being led on a conveyor belt through an enclosure consisting of a series of extremely hot heat lamps that combine the rubber boots with the sulfur and other additives (Product). Both the conveyor belt and the heat lamps are powered by electricity. The manufacturing process as a whole uses a considerable amount of energy from electricity to power the machines and tools responsible for making the final product. The implementation of techniques that involve assembling and cutting the boots by hand with mechanical energy offsets the bias towards electricity. After being manufactured, the Hunter Wellington boots are prepared for distribution to stores and customers around the world.
The next event in the life-cycle of the Hunter Wellington boot is its distribution to the public. In order for the boots to be shipped to stores and online customers, they must pass a quality control inspection and be packaged for transport. Both procedures are done by hand as workers personally examine each pair of boots for any abnormalities or issues and place the ones that pass into boxes with packing tissue. Since humans are conducting these operations, mechanical energy is the main type of energy used. It can be argued that chemical energy is also used due to the chemical processes the human body uses to convert the food we eat into energy we use to function. Once the boots are packaged they are shipped to retailers and customers through a combination of air, sea, and ground transport with airplanes, ships, and automobiles. All three of these modes of transportation primarily run on fossil fuels and create a large amount of carbon emissions since the routes span across the entire planet (Hanania). Once the Hunter Wellington boots arrive on store shelves and at customer’s doorsteps a substantial amount of thermal and chemical energy has been used through the combustion of fossil fuels. With the boots now in the possession of the customer they have reached the last few stages of a products life-cycle which rely on the actions of the customer and society.
The final stages of the Hunter Wellington boots’ life-cycle are the use, reuse, and maintenance of the product by the owner as well as how it recycled and dealt with from a waste management standpoint. Since the primary use for the boot is to be worn as footwear, the energy associated with using the boot is mechanical. Reusing the boot for another purpose does not embody a specific energy because it depends on what the alternative use is. For example if the owner were to repurpose the boots as pots for gardening there would be no energy spent to do so because they are acting as a static object. Mechanical and chemical energy are used when maintaining the boots because on average people clean their boots by hand with cleaning products and repair them with epoxies. As far as recycling the Wellingtons the options are limited as most public recycling plants will not accept rubber products but some private recycling companies do. Other than taking the boots to a recycling company there is the option to donate them to organizations like Goodwill and Salvation Army and let someone else enjoy them (Recyclebank). The energy used for both of these recycling options comes from transporting the boots which will most likely involve the burning of fossil fuels. Not much information was found for waste management regarding the Hunter Wellington boots other than repairing, repurposing, or donating them. Overall the energy associated with the Hunter Wellington’s life while under the ownership of the consumer is mechanical and chemical with the possibility of thermal if they are transported to be recycled or donated.
Examining the entire life-cycle of the Hunter Wellington boot has resulted in findings that are typical of a product being mass produced today. It is apparent through the way Hunter acquires the latex and manufactures the boots that efficiency and lower carbon emissions are at the forefront of their mentality. The company’s use of chemicals to speed up the tapping process demonstrates that the company wants to gather the most latex they can in a given period of time, not only to obtain more raw material but also mitigate the energy use required for maintaining the trees. Having a majority of their factories in close proximity to the plantations shows the progress the company is making to reduce pollution from fossil fuels. Another way Hunter’s progressiveness can be seen is by their decision to retain the tradition of having the boots be constructed by hand with the assistance of machines. The fact that the company has resisted implementing an automated assembly process exemplifies its dedication to its own heritage as well as to preserving the use of electrical energy. Preserving energy is not the only benefit of having the boots be handmade as it also provides jobs for people in areas where steady income and good working conditions are hard to find. Hopefully Hunter will continue these efforts and go on to become a prime example of a longstanding company that can not only adapt to the societal changes regarding the environment but become a proponent of progress in the area.
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