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Monday, October 19, 2009

Shoes: what type of carbon footprint will you leave?

The average life expectancy of a pair of fashion shoes is approximately six months and for most, these will end up in a landfill site. Good and well but it takes on average a 1000 years (one millenium) for standard midsole materials e.g. Ethylene Vinyl Acetate™ (EVA) to degrade in a landfill. According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), in 2006, U.S. consumers purchased 2.4 billion pairs of shoes or estimated average of eight pairs of shoes per person. Shoes have a high environmental cost and there is much to support continuing the life of our shoes whether it be by regular repairs or recycling them to let others benefit. There are several recycling organisations dedicated to the donation of shoes including RecycledRunners.com and Soles4Souls among others. Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program also has helpful information on how best to deal with unwanted shoes. The Nike Environmental Action Team (N.E.A.T.) was established in 1993 and is responsible for the direction and coordination of the company’s global environmental programs. Together with Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks, Sun Microsystems and The Timberland Company they have formed Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), to call for stronger U.S. climate and energy legislation in early 2009. Other environmental sensitive measures being taken include the development of more biodegradable materials. BioMoGo was produced by Brooks and is a fully biodegradable midsole foam which according to the manufacturer biodegrades in roughly 20 years. Many other companies are now providing greener footwear options including: Birkenstock, ecco, END, Flat Tire, KEEN, Mephisto, Patagonia and Teva. Most aware manufacturers are using biodegradable shoe boxes and filling and Timberland have introduced their "nutrition label" which informs consumers what their shoes are made of e.g. recycled materials. New Balance maintains U.S. production factories which helps eliminate the carbon footprint caused by long transportation.

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