2015 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2015 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Ecologial Shoe: Creative Innovations

It’s ironic. We spend money on great new shoes and then with this new fashion investment, we scrub the bottoms against pavement, grass, gravel and elements such as water and snow. Eventually they wear out, go to shoe heaven in a landfill and are replaced by another pair. 

But times are changing. Slowly. Enter the first wave of ecological shoe design.

OAT shoes are revolutionary because they are not destined to the landfill. They make the “world’s first biodegradable sneakers that grow flowers when you plant them”. Also they developed the “first biodegradable leather shoes, bags that grow sunflowers and even baby shoes with seeds to grow your baby’s Tree of Life.” Started in Amsterdam and launched in 2011, The Company quickly earned the prestigious Green Fashion Competition prize.

The most wildly inventive shoes were designed by Naim Josefi using a 3D printer. They are a couture high heeled shoe and are fashioned to have no material waste. They are made from homogenous material that are easier to recycle and therefore can create a “closed loop”. The futuristic vision is for the shoe buyer to have her/his foot scanned and have a new pair reprinted.

Used rubber tires make excellent long lasting soles. In Ethiopia, Sole Rebels collects them to hand cut each one individually for a good fitting sole. The shoe covering consists of organic materials such as cotton, jute or plant fiber. And you can make your own sandals using old rubber tires with instructions from Hollowtop. The designer, Thomas J. Elpel, is a rugged naturalist who went through numerous iterations to arrive at a process that works and generously provides a detailed approach. He reflects: “It has always amazed me that tire companies can manufacture a tire and warranty the tread for some 50,000 miles, yet I can wear out the sole on any ordinary shoe in less than a year. How come we cannot buy a shoe with a 50,000 mile warranty?” 

Simple Shoes uses rubber tires and much more to build their unique line of recycled shoes. That includes recycled Plastic, recycled carpet padding, recycled car tires, natural crepe rubber, eco-certified leather and suede, recycled inner tubes and much more.

At Groundhog Shoes, they manufacture their footwear with completely natural materials such as bamboo charcoal, crepe rubber, natural cork, coconut shells, wood and tree resin, and naturally tanned leather. And finally the footwear is provided in biodegradable bags.
With inspiration from the jambu tree, Jambu creates shoes made with partially recycled and re-usable compressed rubber outsoles with packaging that is recycled, recyclable and re-usable. They have developed a partnership with American Forests to plant 50,000 trees in 2014.

So where is the initiative to recycle old shoes?

Not easy because there are so many different components in so many different shoes. However as a result of a 10 year research project at Loughborough University in their Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre, scientists announced that they have designed "the world’s first comprehensive system for separating and recovering useful materials from old footwear.". They are sorted, shredded, and granulated in to fragments which are then sorted according to materials and go thru three robust physical processes.

Shopping for shoes can be an expedition beyond design, fit and price, you now have more awareness of the impact of your footwear in your environment.