A lot of people can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but everyone can walk and be green.
That’s because several shoe makers have launched environmentally-friendly sneakers. Timberland has a line of shoes called Earthkeepers made from eco-friendly materials. The boots are outfitted with organic cotton laces, recycled rubber outsoles and linings made from recycled plastic bottles. The leather in the shoes come from tanneries that meet certain criteria for energy use, waste production and water treatment.
When these boots are no longer suitable for walking, customers can return them, free of charge, to Timberland and they’ll recycle or reuse the materials. The company also makes clothing under the Earthkeepers brand made from organic cotton and recycled polyester, none of which is “dry clean only,” due to the hazardous chemicals involved in dry cleaning.
Fans of Nike shoes can participate in the company’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, which collects old, worn-out athletic shoes for recycling. The company transforming them into “Nike Grind,” a material used in creating playground and athletic surfaces, such as tennis courts.
Here’s how it works: Any brand of athletic shoe can be accepted, so long as it meets Nike’s recycling guidelines. Shoes can be dropped off at Nike Reuse-A-Shoe recycling locations around the country or at one of the company’s events. Once a critical mass of shoes has been collected, Nike ships them to a processing center in either Belgium or Memphis, TN, where the shoes are dissembled and sorted into three types of raw material: rubber from the outsole, foam from the midsole and fabric fibers from the upper. Once those items are ground up, they find new life on sports fields and tracks, and sometime in new shoes and clothes.
Sadly, another eco-friendly shoe maker is going out of business. Simple Shoes, which made shoes from bamboo, cork and coconuts, is ceasing distribution, but Zappos.com will continue selling select styles while supplies last.