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This past September, the world faced a rude awakening in the form of teen environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. Delivering an emotionally scathing speech at the United Nations, she accused world leaders of snatching her childhood and her dreams with their inaction towards pressing issues like climate change. Slamming U.N. members for their alleged financial greed and unrealistic economic goals, she urged listeners to turn their undivided attention toward the world’s collapsing ecosystems, mass extinctions and the vulnerable.
Her speech was inspiring and truly thought-provoking… yet who would’ve thought that the fashion industry would be the one to actively propose solutions?
As of late, sneakers manufacturers are leading the charge in creating sustainable products without sacrificing comfort, performance and stability. Multinational brands such as Adidas, Nike and Salomon have mastered innovative new methods of production and are quickly moving toward their goal of sustainability.
With the production of over 24 billion pairs of shoes in 2018, the majority are constructed either partly or completely from plastic or polyester – a popular fabric in the fashion industry as it is resistant to shrining, stretching, wrinkling, abrasions and chemicals… plus its lightweight, dyes easily and retains shape well.
From the squishy soles, to the pointed heels, knit polyester uppers and brittle eyelet holes, shoes are complexly stitched, glued and molded together with a multitude of components – making the option of recycling nearly impossible. If the constant flow of trendy shoes never slow down, and people are resistant to owning second-hand pairs, where else can these worn out accessories go other than to the landfill? – where they sit idle for hundreds of years without ever decomposing.
Good thing for us, in the digital age where consumers have a platform to demand change and speak out on unjust issues, ethical fashion (also known as, eco-friendly and people-friendly fashion) has gained momentous traction.
French sports equipment manufacturing company and European leader in the outdoor sporting equipment industry, Salomon Group, is taking strides of its own. Developing reincarnated shoes and equipment, Salomon positions itself as the brand to turn worn down items into newer, trendier apparel so “that you could have more fun outside”. Known as the Salomon Concept Recyclable Running Shoe, the brand aims to lessen environmental impacts of footwear through utilizing a singular material: thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) which can be ground down at the end of its life and remoulded into something new without degrading performance – thus extending the life-cycle of the materials used. Salomon aims to launch the first batch of recyclable shoes in 2021.
Summer’19 was a big step in the right direction for Nike, launching a new line of sustainable footwear, the brand successfully appeased demand for an eco-friendly, stylish and comfortable pair of shoes. Demonstrating innovative and beautiful new approaches to colour, construction and material selection – Nike’s Plant Color Collection featuring the Air Max 95 and the Blazer Low utilize plant-based dyes, while the Nike Flyleather Earth Day Pack incorporates at least 50% of recycled natural leather fibre into its design while preserving the material’s revered appearance, texture and smell.
While the manufacturing of leather often leads to a ton of waste to be discarded, Flyleather is composed of the excess leather scrap and fused with synthetic fibres and fabric infrastructure to form one singular material of premium quality. Creating Flyleather utilizes less water, is lighter, more durable, creates less waste and results in a lower carbon footprint. Nike’s Flywear leather options are available for the Air Max 90, Jordan 1, and the Cortez.
Pledging only to use recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas has not procrastinated its goals. Unveiling its 100% recyclable running shoe, earlier this year. Six years in the making, the Futurecraft Loop features Boost cushioning technology and is covered in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material – this includes its laces, tongue, upper and midsole. The use of a singular material, ensures that the shoe can be repurposed time and time again to create newer, more improved models and versions.
The Futurecraft Loop is assembled with glue, allowing the materials used to be recycled for the creation of a completely new product such as water bottles and tote bags.
With previous partnerships in 2016 to create shoes made from recycled ocean plastic, this is not Adidas’ first venture into eco-friendly production. By the end of 2019, Adidas is expected to produce over 11 million recyclable (or recycled) shoes. Its long-term goals however, go further than minimising plastic, Adidas also reportedly has plans to eradicate manufacturing waste completely.