University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

Mushrooms, chicken feathers, and textile waste combine in biodegradable shoes

Two University of Delaware students put their best foot forward at this year’s National Sustainable Design Expo, showing off a biodegradable shoe they fashioned using mushrooms, chicken feathers and textile waste. Master’s degree student Jillian Silverman and undergraduate Wing Tang, both in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, created a bio-composite material—renewable and sourced sustainably from common regional products—that forms the sole of their prototype shoe.

The shoe and the research process that went into its development were on display at this year’s Expo, part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., April 7-8. UD’s team was invited to take part after receiving $15,000 in support from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “People, Prosperity and the Planet” (P3) grants program.

“The fashion industry produces a lot of waste, so sustainability is an issue everyone is trying to address,” Silverman said. “It’s hard to believe that people are going to change their consumption habits, but with this shoe, when someone gets tired of it or it wears out, it can go into the compost pile and not the landfill.”